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'Tis the season to be jolly, but beware of emergency loans

Everyone who openly celebrates the holidays in Illinois wants these days to be joyful ones. The challenge that many may face, though, is dealing with the feeling that making the season bright somehow requires making good all the material desires that loved ones might have. For many others, just making ends meet can create a lot of pressure.

It is in such circumstances that special lending institutions thrive. While many might consider these operations godsends, the problem that many who use them discover is that they have been robbed of a certain level of financial independence.

The money borrowed often is secured by something like an anticipated paycheck or a title. And while it might seem like a small bridge loan to the borrower, the interest rate that is charged can be so exorbitant that the loan becomes a debt burden that leaves you in a ruinous rut.

Car titles are one of the most commonly used means of securing such loans. It might seem handy to use this apparent asset to leverage some cash, but what can happen, as the states Department of Financial and Professional Regulation observes, is that if the loan comes due, the borrower can't pay and the lender takes possession of the vehicle.

If you need your vehicle for work you can't afford to lose it. If you can't pay off the loan you might find yourself turning to yet another lending source, and thus you get drawn into a whirlpool of debt trouble from which escape can seem impossible.

There have been calls to reform this kind of lending nationally and in Illinois. The Chicago Sun-Times put in its two cents worth on the issue in one recent editorial. But at this point, changes have not been too effective.

Anyone facing difficult financial times should explore all their options, including the possible protections afforded by filing for bankruptcy, before doing something that could leave them in even worse shape.

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