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Mark P. Cussen, CFP® , CMFC

Mark P. Cussen, CFP® , CMFC

Financial Writer

Mark has over 25 years of experience in the financial industry, and has worked with investments, insurance and mortgages as well as income tax preparation and comprehensive financial planning. His writing work includes insurance and securities training manuals and educational articles for several financial websites, such as Investopedia.com and MasonFinance.com. He has also worked as a stockbroker in the full-service, discount and banking arenas as well as serving as a financial counselor for the U.S. military. He currently works as a retirement planner for government employees and also helps high net worth clients to avoid taxation on the sale of highly appreciated assets. Mark has a Bachelor of Science in English from the University of Kansas and earned his CFP® designation from the Bloch School of Business at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in August of 2001. In his spare time, Mark enjoys playing with model trains, church activities, watching sports and cooking.


All ArticlesCredit IssuesEmploymentCarsConsumer RightsDebtsHousingProperty Exemptions

Articles written by Mark P. Cussen, CFP® , CMFC

Debt Settlement Basics: What You Need to Know About This Debt-Relief Option

In most cases, debt settlement should only be considered as a last resort or at least the last possibility before declaring bankruptcy. This article explains what debt settlement is and will help you decide when you’d want to do it yourself and when it may make more sense to hire a professional to do it for you.

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A Simple Debt Settlement Agreement Template

If your lender agrees to let you settle a debt for less than what you owe, you'll need a written agreement that outlines information about the debt, what you'll be expected to pay, how much will be forgiven, and what the repayment terms are. If your lender doesn't send an agreement, you can use this template to draft a written agreement to make sure you're both on the same page.

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How To Use a Debt Consolidation Calculator

If you’re struggling to keep up with multiple payments, debt consolidation may be a good choice for you. A debt consolidation calculator can help you determine if this is the right way for you to get your debts under control. In this article, we’ll look at what debt consolidation is and how debt consolidation calculators work.

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4 Short Sale Fraud Scams To Avoid

One way to avoid foreclosure is with a loss mitigation option called a short sale, where you sell your home for less than what you owe on it. Your lender has to approve the short sale before it happens. If they do, the lender usually forgives the remaining balance owed and releases the mortgage lien on your property. Unfortunately, there are several types of fraud that can happen in short sales that you should be aware of. Here we’ll cover four common types of short sale fraud, what to look out for, and how to avoid fraudsters.

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The Debt Settlement Agreement Letter: Your Legal Contract

If a lender agrees to settle a debt for less than what you owe, you need to get the details in writing for the agreement to be binding. This is especially important because many debt settlements happen via telephone. A debt settlement agreement letter is a tool you can use to do this. It must include key information about you, your account, your lender, and the repayment terms you've agreed to.

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How To Avoid Credit Repair Scams

If you have poor credit, you may be tempted to use a credit repair service to boost your score quickly. Unfortunately, there are many unscrupulous credit repair scams out there that prey on people in your situation. They often charge exorbitant fees and make promises that they cannot keep. They could even leave your poor credit score in worse shape than ever. Here’s what you need to know in order to keep yourself from becoming a victim of a credit repair scam.

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What To Expect After a Foreclosure Sale

If your home has been foreclosed, you’re probably wondering what your options are at this point. Going through the foreclosure process is stressful, and having to figure out what to do next only adds to that. Fortunately, you do have options. There are few ways you may be able to stay in your home after foreclosure. Or if you decide it’s better to leave, you have options there too. Here’s what you can expect to see after the foreclosure process has run its course.

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8 Tips To Help You Rent After Foreclosure

If you’ve recently experienced foreclosure and are facing eviction, you’re probably preoccupied with finding a new place to live. In most cases, you will have to rent your new place instead of buying it. But many rental applications include a credit check, which can be worrisome if you have a foreclosure on your credit report. Foreclosures damage your credit score, so you may find many landlords have concerns about taking you on as a new tenant. But it won’t be impossible to find a rental. Here are eight tips to help you find a place to rent after your foreclosure has been settled.

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Going Without Homeowners Insurance: Is It Worth the Risk?

If you own a home, it’s probably the largest asset you have, which is why it’s a good idea to insure it. Homeowners insurance protects your home and the belongings inside it from loss or destruction. It can also provide financial protection if someone is injured on your property. If you have a mortgage, most lenders will require you to carry at least a certain amount of insurance on your home. While homeowners insurance can be costly, not having it puts you at great financial risk. This article will explain why.

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Do I Have To Pay Taxes After a Short Sale of My Home?

Generally speaking, when lenders or creditors forgive part or all of a debt, it’s treated as income and you may have to pay taxes on the forgiven amount. If you decide to sell your home in a short sale to avoid foreclosure, the sale amount will be less than what you owe on the mortgage. In this case, if the lender agrees to forgive the remaining debt, will you have to pay taxes on the amount they forgive? Before deciding whether a short sale is a good option for you, you’ll want to understand the possible tax consequences. This article can help.

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Understanding the Power of Sale Clause

If a borrower defaults on their home payments, the mortgage lender must normally go through the state court system and get a court order to do a foreclosure. Once that has been done, the lender can sell the property to recoup the unpaid loan balance. But in some cases, the lender includes a power of sale clause in the deed of trust, which gives them the ability to do a foreclosure sale without going through the court system. Power of sale clauses ultimately protect the mortgage company and lead to a much faster foreclosure process. This article will tell you what you need to know about how a power of sale foreclosure works and how to find out if they apply to you.

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9 Things a Solid Debt Settlement Agreement Should Have

If you’re struggling to pay a debt and your account is in default, you can try to negotiate a debt settlement agreement with your creditor. If a creditor does agree to negotiate a debt settlement agreement, it's important to get the details right before signing a binding contract. This article will explore when to consider a debt settlement agreement, how long the process takes, how it affects your credit score, and what an agreement should contain.

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Prepayment Penalties: What You Need To Know

If you’re working diligently to pay off your debt early, you may be unpleasantly surprised to find out about prepayment penalties. Some lenders charge these fees when borrowers pay off their debts before their loan term expires. These penalties are designed to discourage borrowers from paying off their loans early. Some kinds of loans have prepayment penalties while others do not. Here’s what you need to know about prepayment penalties and how they can affect you.

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Ohio Vehicle Repossession Laws

If you take out a loan to buy a vehicle and you become unable to make the payments, then you run the risk of having your vehicle repossessed. Vehicle repossession laws are largely the same in all states, but some details governing borrowers’ and lenders’ rights differ from one state to another. Here we will examine Ohio’s laws and what you need to know if you live in Ohio and can’t make your payment or have already experienced vehicle repossession.

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What Is a Buy Here, Pay Here Dealership & How Does It Work?

If you’re shopping for a car and you have bad credit, you may have trouble getting financing. You can try to get a personal loan from a local bank or a friend or family member. But if that doesn't work, you may have to go to a buy here, pay here (BHPH) dealership. These dealers offer in-house financing to people with bad credit. If you really need a car, they can help you get one. But there are also downsides to financing with them. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of buy here, pay here dealerships.

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Salvage Title Cars: Everything You Need To Know

A salvage title car comes with its own set of risks and limitations. But if you know the car’s history and the person who is selling it to you, a salvage title car may be a good deal in some cases. This article will discuss the pros and cons of buying a car with a salvage title, how to identify, finance, and insure a car with a salvage title, and what steps you can take to get a rebuilt title issued for your car.

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12 Easy Strategies To Build Credit Without a Credit Card

Using a credit card is not the only way to build your credit. Many companies can report your payment history to the major credit bureaus, including lenders for your auto loan or mortgage, as well as any utility companies that bill you monthly. You can also build your credit over time by taking advantage of certain lending opportunities. Here are 12 easy ways to build your credit to get you started.

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12 Ways To Build a Strong Credit History

Your credit score is one of the main components of your financial health. If your FICO credit score is good, then you can get credit more easily and cheaply than you can if you have several blemishes on your credit report. Fortunately, there are several things that you can do to build your credit over time, regardless of what your credit score is now.

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Can I Get a Paid Collection Account Off My Credit Report?

A paid-off collection account will come off your credit report eventually, but it's not usually possible to get this account taken off your credit report proactively. You can ask your creditor to take the account off your report - either as a condition of your full payment or as a matter of good will - but no creditor is obligated to honor this request. This article will go into detail about how an account that has been sent to collection can affect your credit score, how a "pay for delete" letter works, and what you can do if the collection account on your credit report is there by mistake.

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Are Pay for Delete Letters Effective?

If you have had a debt sent to collections, it may be possible to get the negative item removed with a pay for delete letter. This type of letter politely asks a collection agency, debt buyer, or other creditor to remove the negative item from your credit report in exchange for paying off the debt in question. There are potential drawbacks and benefits to this approach. Read on to learn more about pay for delete letters and how they can affect your credit history and credit score.

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Credit Builder Loans: Are They Worth It?

Borrowers with bad credit face a real Catch-22 when it comes to rebuilding their credit. They need a chance to rebuild their credit history, but the only way to do that is to get credit and then use it responsibly. But very few lenders will be willing to extend it to them because they have shown that they cannot make their payments on time, or at all in some cases. A credit builder loan can help solve this problem.

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Can you get unemployment while on Social Security?

If you are collecting Social Security benefits and have also recently lost your job due to company layoffs, the coronavirus pandemic, or other factors, you may be wondering if you can collect unemployment benefits on top of your Social Security benefits. The good news is that you can collect both types of benefits at once. These two types of benefits come from completely different sources and receiving one of them does not disqualify you from applying for the other one as well. Read on to learn more.

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A Guide to Arizona Debt Collection Law

Do you live in Arizona? Are you behind on your credit card or other consumer debt payments? The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act dictates many of Arizona’s laws in this area. But there are some key differences between the FDCPA and the laws of the state of Arizona. Here we will examine the laws of Arizona pertaining to debt collection, where they differ from the FDCPA, and why this issue should matter to you.

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Upsolve is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that started in 2016. Our mission is to help low-income families who cannot afford lawyers file bankruptcy for free, using an online web app. Spun out of Harvard Law School, our team includes lawyers, engineers, and judges. We have world-class funders that include the U.S. government, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and leading foundations. It's one of the greatest civil rights injustices of our time that low-income families can’t access their basic rights when they can’t afford to pay for help. Combining direct services and advocacy, we’re fighting this injustice.

To learn more, read why we started Upsolve in 2016, our reviews from past users, and our press coverage from places like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

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