If you’ve recently found yourself buried under a pile of debt, you’ve probably spent some time researching ways to dig yourself out. Most likely, filing for personal bankruptcy did not sound like the most appealing choice. However, like visiting the dentist or and eating spinach, filing for bankruptcy can actually be quite good for your health, financially.
Like most tools that aid in personal finance recovery, the more you learn about bankruptcy, the more comfortable you may feel wielding it as a debt-reducing tool.
The following are some important things to know about personal bankruptcy:
What Will the Neighbors Say?
While many people think bankruptcy carries some stigma, the fact is that more than 1.5 million Americans filed for bankruptcy last year. And these people stretched across all social strata—from doctors and corporate executives to plumbers and house cleaners.
In addition, according to a recent Harvard University study revealed that most bankruptcy filers wound up in court as a result of job loss, divorce, or medical issues. So, if one of these problems led to your financial malaise, know that you are not alone.
Where Do I Start?
First, figure out if you can stay out of bankruptcy by reducing your household expenses, or adjusting the payment plans on the debts you owe. If such tactics dramatically reduce your debts, you may be able to navigate the road to financial recovery yourself.
However, if these strategies prove ineffective, consider filing for personal bankruptcy. See if it makes more sense to file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Each of these options comes with its own advantages. For example, Chapter 7 bankruptcy can help discharge your debts more quickly, while Chapter 13 may allow you to keep more of your assets.
Of course, both options are pretty complex, especially after the legislative overhaul of bankruptcy law in 2005. It is possible to file for bankruptcy yourself, but seeking legal advice from an experienced bankruptcy attorney is often worth the investment.
Be Careful of Misleading Information From Debt Collectors
Reportedly, some companies promising immediate debt relief peddle misleading, or outright wrong, information. Be wary of promises to drastically reduce your debt or painlessly repair your credit, especially if these promises come attached with large up-front fees.
Also, beware of pressure tactics from your creditors. One tall tale occasionally given by debt collectors is that the 2005 reforms banned bankruptcy altogether. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Personal bankruptcy is alive and well, and over a million Americans use bankruptcy every year to reduce their debt load.