Oklahoma Debt Relief: The Tools You Need to Escape the Debt Trap

Many Oklahomans are grappling with a significant amount of debt.

On average, Oklahoma households have an average of $8,409 in credit card debt and the sixth-highest credit card debt burden in the U.S., according to CreditCards.com. The median household income in Oklahoma is around $53,840. That’s far below the estimated real median income in the country of $70,784.

It would take the average Oklahoman 15 months to pay off debt with an interest cost of $1,218 — and that’s if they’re committing 15% of their earnings to repayment.

If you live in Oklahoma and feel overwhelmed by debt, help is available. Read on to learn more.

Oklahoma overview

The estimated population in Oklahoma is 3,986,639. Many Oklahomans seek debt relief or economic help. In 2020, about 14.3% of the population — or 552,168 people — were in poverty. This makes Oklahoma one of the most impoverished states in the country.

Oklahoma debt statistics

Here are the most recent debt statistics for Oklahoma:

  • Average household debt: $37,620 (per capita)
  • Average student loan debt: $31,525
  • Average credit score: 692 (2021)
  • Median mortgage payment: $1,214
  • Bankruptcies: 148.8 per 100,000 residents (2021)
  • Personal income: $48,360 across all occupations
  • Child poverty: 19.9% (the U.S. average is 9%)
  • Unemployment: 3.2%

Debt relief options

Looking for debt relief in Oklahoma? Here are some of the best options:

  • Debt consolidation loans: A debt consolidation loan lets you combine several high-interest debts into one loan with a single monthly payment. This new loan typically has a lower overall interest rate and can be easier to manage. If you have high amounts of credit card debt, a 0% APR balance transfer credit card could help instead of a loan.
  • Debt settlement: With a debt settlement company, you may be able to lower the total amount of owed debt by up to 50%. This process can hurt your credit, but it can make the remaining debt easier to repay. The company may charge a service fee based on the amount of debt settled.
  • DIY plans: DIY debt settlement plans also let you reduce how much you owe. Instead of going through an agency, you complete the process yourself. This can cut down on agency costs, but it typically requires good communication and negotiation skills.
  • Debt management plan: A debt management plan, or DMP, can also offer debt relief – without hurting your credit score. With one, it may be possible to waive late fees, lower interest rates, and get a better handle on your payments. DMPs usually take 3 to 5 years to complete, but any enrolled debts should be resolved by the end of the program.
  • Bankruptcy: There are two main types of personal bankruptcy – Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Both can help you manage your unsecured debts and stop harassing calls from debt collectors, but they can also hurt your credit score. Before declaring bankruptcy, speak with a bankruptcy attorney to see if it’s the best option for debt relief.

To learn more about Chapter 7 bankruptcy, check out this video:

Debt settlement resources

Debt settlement involves negotiating with your creditors to reduce the total you owe. In Oklahoma, virtually all unsecured debts can be settled. This includes:

  • Credit cards
  • Department store cards
  • Personal loans or lines of credit
  • Personal lines of credit
  • Old judgments
  • Student loans in default

You can settle your debts in two ways:

  • Negotiate directly with your creditors
  • Use a professional debt settlement company

Debt settlement companies

Oklahoma debt settlement attorneys

  • Debt Solutions Law Center: 1415 NW 43rd St #203, Oklahoma City, OK 73118; bankruptcy-lawyer-oklahoma.com
  • Christopher A. Wood and Associates: 1133 N Portland Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73107; affordlaw.com
  • Sansone Howell: 4600 SE 29th St #500, Del City, OK 73115; sansonehowell.com

Be sure to research companies before you choose. Check out Better Business Bureau reviews and complaints. And if you think you’re dealing with a scam company, contact the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office.

Debt resources for Oklahoma residents facing hardship

Oklahoma has various debt relief resources for residents who are dealing with a financial emergency or hardship. This includes medical, legal, education, financial, and nutritional assistance. Almost half of American families are currently struggling to put food on the table.

In terms of nutritional assistance, the state has multiple food banks for low-income families. This includes:

Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma

  • 3355 S. Purdue PO Box 270968 Oklahoma City, OK 73179
  • (405) 972-1111

Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma

  • 1304 N. Kenosha Ave. Tulsa, OK 74106
  • (918) 585-2800

Regional Food Bank FRC

  • 2635 N. Shields Blvd. Moore, OK
  • (405) 600-3182

Broken Arrow Neighbors

  • 315 W College Street Broken Arrow, OK 74012
  • (918) 251-7781

Mission Norman Inc

  • 2525 E Lindsey Norman, OK 73071
  • (405) 321-8880

For a comprehensive list of food banks or pantries in the state, head over to Feeding America.

Debt collection laws in Oklahoma

Debt collection in Oklahoma is regulated by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which was enacted in the 1970s. The FDCPA only applies to third-party debt collectors, not creditors collecting their own debts.

Under the FDCPA, third-party debt collectors cannot try to coerce, threaten, harass or deceive individuals to collect money. They also are limited in other ways, such as when and how they contact you. For example, they cannot misrepresent themselves or claim you owe a debt that isn’t yours. They’re also required to validate any debts.

Even though they are regulated, debt collectors can still:

  • Quit conducting business with you
  • Initiate a lawsuit against you to collect the debt (this could lead to the court garnishing your wages)
  • Report the defaulted account to a credit reporting agency (this could damage your credit score)

Some states require debt collectors to obtain a license before they can engage in debt collection. This is not the case in Oklahoma.

READ MORE: How to deal with debt collectors when you can’t pay

Income and employment

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oklahoma’s unemployment rate was a whopping 12.6%. This was high, even during that time. The state’s unemployment rate has since dropped to 3.2%. This is slightly lower than the national average of 3.5%.

As for job creation, Oklahoma ranks 36th out of 50 states with around 1,695,400 new jobs this year.

Oklahoma is a right-to-work state, meaning that employees are not required to join a union as a condition of employment. Because of this, they don’t have to pay union dues. The downside is that many employees have fewer job-related protections since there’s no union to advocate for fair wages or job security.

The state is also an employment-at-will state. This means an employer can fire an employee for almost any reason – except discrimination or a physical disability. This severely cuts down on job security.

How to apply for unemployment benefits

It’s possible to apply for unemployment benefits in Oklahoma online. 

Check your eligibility to get started. You’ll need to be currently unemployed and actively seeking work. You’ll also need to have worked during the past 12 months and earned a minimum amount.

If eligible, you’ll need some basic information, such as your:

  • Full legal name
  • Contact info
  • Social Security number
  • Government-issued ID (ex. Oklahoma driver’s license or state ID)

Once you have that, apply at UI.ok.gov. If approved, you’ll also have to register on OKJobMatch.com for work and apply for jobs each week.

It can take up to 21 days to become eligible for unemployment benefits, so apply early. While receiving benefits, keep an eye on any claims and file a weekly certification through the unemployment portal.

Banking and taxes

Oklahoma’s state income tax for individuals ranges from 0.25% to 4.75%, depending on annual earnings and filing status (single or married). The state also has an average state and local sales tax of about 8.97%.

As for banking, around a third of all Oklahomans are unbanked – they don’t have a checking or savings account. When people are unbanked, they often turn to less-than-favorable financing options like payday loans or auto title loans.

This can lead to bigger financial problems down the road, like the payday debt trap. Oklahoma has the highest percentage (10.6%) of people who use these services out of all states.

Housing market

Around 66.1% of Oklahoma residents own their own home. The current average house value in Oklahoma is $187,915, a 15.9% increase from last year. In comparison, the average housing price in the United States is $356,026.

The median mortgage payment in Oklahoma is $1,231. The median rent payment is $950, though this depends on factors like the rental size and location.

Oklahoma also has a homestead exemption, which could be helpful to homeowners during bankruptcy. If you qualify, you may be able to protect the entire value of your property during bankruptcy.

To be eligible for this exemption, you must be:

  • Homeowner
  • 65 years or older or disabled
  • Head of household
  • Resident of the state
  • Make no more than $12,000 a year (total gross household income)

There are other eligibility requirements as well. For example, the property must be no larger than half an acre in a city – or up to 160 acres if located outside a municipality.

It’s not usually necessary to file for a homestead exemption during bankruptcy. However, it’s still a good idea to speak with a lawyer to verify your rights and exemptions. 

Retirement in Oklahoma

According to Personal Capital, the average Oklahoma resident has $361,366 saved for retirement. To retire comfortably and maintain a similar standard of living, they should have closer to $870,000.

Average insurance premiums

The typical car insurance premium in Oklahoma is around $1,902 a year for full coverage. This is about $158 a month.

The average cost of home insurance is about $3,593 a year on a home valued at $250,000. The national average is closer to $1,300 a year.

Payday lending status in Oklahoma: Legal

Oklahoma legislators passed the Small Lenders Act in 2019, which significantly changed the rules for payday lenders in the state. In particular, the act changed the minimum and maximum repayment terms to 60 days and 12 months, respectively. This has made installment loans the new norm.

Payday lending remains legal throughout the state, despite these changes. For more information, read Oklahoma Payday Loan Laws: The Ultimate Legislative Guide.

Payday loan terms and debt limits

  • Maximum loan amount: $1,500
  • Maximum Interest Rate (APR): 204%
  • Minimum loan term: 60 days
  • Maximum loan term: 12 months

Statute of limitations on debt

The statute of limitations on most consumer debts in Oklahoma is 5 years. State tax debt can still be collected for up to 10 years, however.

State hardship programs

Whether you’re actively seeking debt relief or just need some financial help, Oklahoma offers various hardship programs. These include:

  • Childcare subsidy: This subsidy can cover some or all of a family’s childcare expenses. The amount depends on household income.
  • Health and medical services: There are many health-related programs available, which can help with a wide range of medical issues. This includes nursing facility care and family planning.
  • Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): This federally-funded program is designed to help low-income households lower the cost of their energy bills. Eligibility is based on household size and income.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Oklahomans who need nutritional support can find it here. SNAP benefits are for U.S. citizens or legal aliens that are unemployed or meet specific income standards.
  • Refugee assistance: Any individual who meets the Oklahoma Administrative Code 340:60-1-3(c) and income standards may qualify for cash and medical benefits.
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): This program provides cash assistance to families with children. Eligibility is based primarily on income, but the applicant must also work with Child Support Services. Those who do not receive TANF benefits may be eligible for free job training under SNAP.
  • Department of Emergency Management: The Department has a list of programs for individuals experiencing an emergency or current hardship.

There are many other hardship programs in Oklahoma for individuals or families who need help.

Help for Veterans

About 9.20% of Oklahoman adults are veterans – that’s approximately 270,775 people. There are resources for those facing homelessness, unemployment, or other hardships. For a comprehensive list, check with the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs.

There’s also a sales tax exemption of up to $25,000 annually for veterans with a 100% permanent disability. Surviving spouses may also be exempt from paying $1,000 a year in sales tax.

This exemption applies to all city and county sales taxes. Certain property taxes may also be exempt. However, it doesn’t apply to certain goods, such as gasoline or cigarette tax.

To get the card indicating that you’re exempt from paying sales tax, contact the Oklahoma Department of Veteran’s Affairs at (888) 655-2838. Ask for a letter certifying that you’re a 100% disabled veteran.

Once you have the letter, send it here:

Oklahoma Tax Commission

P. O. Box 269057 Oklahoma City, OK  73126-9057

Or take it in person to either the Oklahoma City or Tulsa Office.

Facilities in Oklahoma

There are two full-service VA hospitals, in Oklahoma City and Muskogee.

Oklahoma has a comprehensive directory of veteran service offices, but here are some of the biggest ones:

Veterans Benefits Administration – Muskogee Regional Office

  • 125 South Main Street Muskogee, OK 74401
  • (800) 827-1000

National Cemetery Administration – Fort Sill National Cemetery

  • 2648 NE Jake Dunn Road Elgin, OK 73538
  • (580) 492-3200

Veterans Health Administration – VA Eastern Oklahoma Health Care

  • 1011 Honor Heights Drive Muskogee, OK 74401-1318
  • (888) 397-8387

VA Healthcare System – Ernest Childers Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic

  • 8921 South Mingo Road Tulsa, OK 74133-5841
  • (888) 397-8387

Oklahoma City VA Medical Center

  • 921 Northeast 13th Street Oklahoma City, OK 73104-5007
  • (405) 456-1000

Vet Center – Lawton Vet Center

  • 10 SW 2nd St. Ste 4 Lawton, OK 73501
  • (580) 585-5880

Employment resources for Veterans

  • CareerOneStop offers job resources and an online job search portal
  • VeteranRecruiting.com helps military spouses and veterans find employment through a virtual recruitment center and online career fairs
  • Helmets to Hardhats helps military personnel transition into a civilian career in construction
  • Hiring Our Heroes helps veterans with education, networking, and career-related opportunities
  • My Next Move offers help to veterans and non-veterans so they can find career opportunities that use their military skillset
  • Warriors to Work helps veterans with their career and resume

The bottom line

If you’re seeking debt relief or financial assistance in Oklahoma, you’re in luck. There are many state-specific and federal programs available to help with things like bills and financial emergencies.

There are also debt relief options, such as debt consolidation and debt settlement. Plus, the state has federal and state protections in place against debt collectors.

FAQs

How long can a debt be collected in Oklahoma?

Most consumer debts in Oklahoma can only be collected for up to 5 years. The exception is state tax-related debt, which can be collected for 10 years.

When does the statute of limitations begin in Oklahoma?

In most cases, the statute of limitations begins on the date of your last payment, or when the account is past due.

Am I responsible for my spouse’s debt if I get divorced in Oklahoma?

Typically, you will only be responsible for any debts you and your ex-spouse incurred during the marriage. Debts prior to marriage are the sole responsibility of the individual, in most cases. Consult a divorce attorney for more information.

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