February 19, 2013

Personal Responsibility and Debt

by Melissa Atkinson
The Shocking Truth About Debt: It’s Not a Financial Problem (via Credit.com)

Are you tired of having credit card bills? Do you wish you could get out of debt once and for all? If you want get out of debt permanently, first consider this: Debt is not a financial problem. Hard to believe, but true. Debt is actually a personal problem that masquerades in financial clothing. That…

January 14, 2013

Bankruptcies are no problem at Serra Nissan

by Melissa Atkinson

I’m happy to say that I’ve landed in a wonderful  car dealership.  We have excellent selection, great customer service and we work with all sorts of credit profiles.  Like the radio ad says, Randy Visser really is a dealer for the people.

I’ve never seen a harder working group of people working with the community to assist car buyers get the lending that they need.

Obviously, in a town of our size and with such limited public transit, buying a car is a necessity for most people, and I know there are a lot of folks out there who feel limited in their choices because so many other dealers refuse to do the hard work necessary to get someone with a low credit score a loan for their vehicle purchase.

Contact me for an honest evaluation of your situation and an honest assessment of what you’ll need to do to purchase your next car, truck or SUV at the best interest rate available.  Whether you’re in bankruptcy or not, I’m more than happy to consult with people who just want some answers to their car buying questions.

Call Melissa at Serra Nissan. 205-856-2544 or shoot me an email at matkinson@serranissan.com

Happy Motoring!

December 4, 2012

Why Buy Here, Pay Here is a Bad Deal for Consumers

by Melissa Atkinson

I’m not going to lie to you, there is a rare occasion where buying a car at a buy here – pay here lot is the only way someone with extreme credit challenges and cash flow limits can get into a car quickly, and let’s face it, life has this inexorable way of throwing surprises our way. Sometimes you just need a car – any car – right away.  During those times and left with no other options, a buy here – pay here can be a lifesaver.

The downsides of buy here – pay here are numerous, the most important factors being that you’re likely to be buying a high-mileage, overpriced, poorly maintained vehicle and the cost of credit doesn’t even go towards building your good credit rating.  Remember, buy here – pay here lots make their money off of selling, repossessing and reselling the same cars over and over.

So before you go off to a buy here – pay here used car lot because you assume your bad credit will prohibit you from getting a conventional car loan, take a good look at your options and definitely take the time to speak with an automotive finance professional who works with mainstream banks.

Most important to your own future is to consider that if you go through a conventional bank and a professional car dealer you get a better car and a chance to build your good credit.

First of all you have to take the time to find a good car sales professional.  Unfortunately, in the automotive industry, you’ll find a high turnover and some less-than-professional individuals.  You’ll also find a lot of new sales people, and while they might be nice, they don’t know the ins-and-outs of the business and might not be able to give you the help you need.  So take your time and shop around for a knowledgeable automotive professional to help you.

Not only is your choice of sales people instrumental in helping you get financing, making sure you’ve found a dealership that has a good sales manager and a talented finance manager can make all the difference in your approval.

It’s advised to shop a few different places but don’t let them run your credit a bunch of times.  The number of recent inquiries on your credit report can make or break a good car deal.

If you’re in the Birmingham, AL area and need some assistance purchasing a vehicle and have less than stellar credit, the crew at Serra Nissan is more than happy to help.  Call Melissa at 205-856-2544  or drop me an email at matkinson@serranissan.com

November 29, 2012


by Melissa Atkinson


November 28, 2012

Removing the Stigma of a Bankruptcy Filing

by Melissa Atkinson

Let me tell you the story of my friend, Mike.*  Back in the early aughts Mike and his wife Candy were on top of their game.  Mike worked in the pharmaceutical industry and Candy was an investment broker.  Mike and Candy had solid investments in the stock market and sported A+ credit ratings. Like many people in that golden age of rising home prices, Mike and Candy bought a big, beautiful house and filled it with gorgeous art and furniture.

Then 2008 happened. Mike and Candy were hit hard.  Both of their industries dove off a cliff, they lost their jobs, their stock portfolio lost 50% overnight and the housing market crashed locking them into an over-valued home in a declining market.

Sound familiar?  This scenario played out all over America as millions of working-class people struggled to keep a tenuous grip on all that they had worked for.  The pressure turned out to be too much for Candy, who took out the family pistol one cold March evening and blew her brains out, leaving Mike with a mortgage that it took two incomes to support and unable to collect on her life insurance policy due to the suicide clause.

When I met Mike, he was bleeding money every month just to keep on top of a 3,000 square foot house that he inhabited all alone.  The banks wouldn’t go in to mortgage modification with Mike because he insisted on demonstrating responsibility by actually paying his mortgage on time (bureaucracy at it’s finest!)

Mike was a nervous wreck.   Bankruptcy was something that irresponsible people did! But he knew he had to do something, but because of his ingrained belief that filing bankruptcy was something to be ashamed of, he didn’t see any options for himself.

I sat Mike down one afternoon and calmly told him what he needed to hear.  Bankruptcy isn’t a personal failing, it is a business decision.  Corporations restructure all the time. It’s not a big deal.

He already knew this, he just needed someone to tell him.  Mike just needed to hear that the world wasn’t going to look down on him because he had to file bankruptcy and that filing bankruptcy isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it can be a fresh start.  A chance to recollect and reconnect with what is really important in life:  living.

Today, Mike is slowly rebuilding the opportunities that were taken from him.  He breathes easier and smiles more.   After what he’s been through, I’d say he deserves to have a few things to smile about.

November 27, 2012

Buying a car: The Fundamental Difference Between Ch 7 and Ch 13 Bankruptcies

by Melissa Atkinson

Car buyers need to understand the nuances of purchasing a vehicle before, during and after bankruptcy and to do that it is helpful to define the fundamental differences between the two most common types of consumer bankruptcy programs: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.

Chapter 7 is the most straightforward. Typically, a consumer will file Chapter 7 and be discharged in approximately 3 months.  The decision to carry your car through bankruptcy or not depends on a few factors such as present equity, whether you’re current on your car payments or not and if you’re comfortable with your current car payment.  If you’re current on your car payments and you can comfortably make your car payment on time every month, the best thing to do is reaffirm your vehicle debt, carry the car through bankruptcy and trade it in on a different vehicle as soon as your bankruptcy is discharged.  With Chapter 7, while you won’t be eligible to purchase a vehicle between the time you’ve filed for bankruptcy and the time that you’re discharged, purchasing a new vehicle fresh out of bankruptcy discharge will have the effect of helping you to rebuild your credit quickly.

Because it isn’t a simple bankruptcy procedure and serves more in the capacity of a debt restructuring program, Chapter 13 is a bit more complicated in terms of discharge date expectations and rules of the program.  Again, if you’re current on your vehicle payments, you’ll reaffirm your vehicle debt at the beginning of the bankruptcy process.  The problem with Chapter 13 is the expected length of the program, because Chapter 13 bankruptcy often spans multiple years, a lot can happen to your vehicle and family needs over the course of 2 years or even 5 years.  The good news about buying a car while in Chapter 13 bankruptcy is that it is not impossible.  The best advise I’ve heard regarding what to do if you’re in active Chapter 13 bankruptcy is to contact the bankruptcy court and request the opportunity to purchase a new vehicle.  Your needs will be evaluated if it is determined that you need a new vehicle, the judge will determine how much you can spend on your vehicle purchase and issue you a letter to that effect.

Whether you’re going to or already have filed bankruptcy, I hope my post demonstrates to you that it is not the end of your financial life and you can rebuild your credit to grant you access to the things you need to get ahead in life.

If you need any help finding or purchasing a vehicle in bankruptcy, please feel free to contact me at Serra Nissan, my email address is matkinson@serranissan.com   Ask for Melissa!

November 27, 2012

Is your credit report information accurate??

by Melissa Atkinson

Melissa Atkinson:

Excellent information on protecting your credit and assuring your reports are accurate.

Originally posted on toddfriedmanlaw:

According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act,  the three nationwide reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are required to give you one free copy of your credit report every year.  Your credit report will contain information about where you live, your payment history, bankruptcy filings,  and judgements against you.

To obtain a copy of your credit report, you will have to provide your name, address, social security number and date of birth. If you have moved in the last 2 years, you may also have to provide your previous address. The reporting agency may also ask you for confidential information that only you would know in order to keep your file secure. You should receive a copy of your report within 15 days of receipt.

If you find errors in the report, you should tell the specific agency, in writing, what information is inaccurate. The agency must then investigate the inaccuracy within 30 days. If the information is found to be…

View original 142 more words

November 26, 2012

It’s the End of the Year Time to Buy a Car

by Melissa Atkinson

Conventional wisdom is rarely wrong, December is the best time to purchase a new or preowned vehicle.  Dealers have been sitting on the 2012 inventories for a long time, manufacturer’s often up the ante in terms of rebates, rates, cash back and other incentives and sales people and sales managers want to finish the year strong.

Finance rates are still low, prime and subprime lending is available to consumers with a variety of credit profiles.

Car buyers, if you need to get a new vehicle for yourself or your family, this is your month to save.  If you time it right, you can get the right car for thousands of dollars less 

Check out my local inventory, and remember I’ve got access to over a thousand vehicles. serramarketdirect.com


November 20, 2012

Serra Market Direct now Serra Independence Automotive

by Melissa Atkinson

If you’re looking for a great deal on your next pre-owned vehicle, come see us at 1476 Montgomery Highway in Vestavia Hills. We have affordable high line luxury vehicles such as BMW, Infiniti, Mercedes as well as great domestic and import vehicles from all major car lines: Chevy, Ford, Hyundai, Honda, Toyota, Subaru, Nissan, VW and more.

Come by to see our classic car collection or to discuss your vehicle goals. As always, I’m here to help you secure the best financing for your car, SUV or truck purchase and work with over 50 different lenders to assure you get the best car loan rates available.

Have a great Thanksgiving, Birmingham!


November 14, 2012

One of the greatest words in the English language: Approved!

by Melissa Atkinson



One of the greatest things you can hear is “you’re approved.”  It means that you can buy that new car you need.  People’s second question is often,”for how much?”

Unfortunately, “How much am I approved for,” is not always the best question to follow up with.

A better question would be, “what is the rate?”

The reason “how much am I approved for” is not such a great question is that it often comes from the mindset of “how much car can I buy” instead of “how much car can I afford.”

If you’ve got credit challenges on your credit report, it is a safe bet to assume you’ll be paying for a loan with a higher rate than someone with traditionally perfect credit would pay.  And that’s ok.  Paying a little more for the bank to take a risk on you can be a good thing in the long run.

Getting approved at a higher rate will limit your purchase range in terms of what kind of payments your budget will bear, but maybe you really didn’t need the top of the line Mercedes after all.

And that might be a blessing in disguise. Your goal is to build your credit and maintain a positive growth so you can move into the future with confidence, not break the bank with a vehicle purchase the first time out.  Self-sabotage is easy to do on credit, it takes maturity and the ability to take the long term view to resist making an impulse buying mistake, especially as big of a decision as purchasing a new vehicle can be.

Credit is like a baseball park, build it, and wealth will come.

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