How to Tell When it’s Time to Declare Bankruptcy

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With passage of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act virtually assured, many experts believe financially-strapped consumers will rush to their local bankruptcy court to file before the bill becomes law. This raises the question: Is bankruptcy right for you if youÂ?re struggling to make ends meet each month?

With passage of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act virtually assured, many experts believe financially-strapped consumers will rush to their local bankruptcy court to file before the bill becomes law. This raises the question: Is bankruptcy right for you if you’re struggling to make ends meet each month?

The answer, according to consumer advocate Paula Langguth Ryan, isn’t always clear cut. In fact, depending on how old your debts are, your payment history and your personal situation, bankruptcy may actually hurt you more than doing nothing.

“If you haven’t paid anything on your outstanding debts in four or five years, and there’s no chance you’re going to be able to pay anything on them in the next few years,” says Ryan, “you’ll have a clean slate in two to three years when those debts fall off your credit report.”

Compare that to having a bankruptcy listed on your credit report for another 10 years and bankruptcy doesn’t look like your best option, unless you need to get a car or move before the old debts hit the seven year mark and are removed from your credit reports.

Ryan, who wrote the best-selling Bounce Back From Bankruptcy after having gone bankrupt herself at an early age, believes many people wait too long to declare bankruptcy until they’ve literally given away everything to creditors. At her debt-busting workshops, she shares horror stories, such as the one about a man who was arrested after robbing seven banks. His family had a fire in their apartment and had relocated to a hotel for seven months. With most of their income going to pay creditors, he robbed a bank every month, demanding only enough to pay his monthly hotel bill.

Another family of five, says Ryan, was paying their creditors so much money each month they only had $50 left for food. “After one child died from malnourishment. Social Services put the other two children in foster care and threw the parents in jail for child neglect.”

Ryan offers these warning signs that it may be time to declare bankruptcy:

• You’ve cut back on every essential and paying your creditors causes you to fall behind on your essential payments, such as your mortgage/rent, car payment, insurance or utilities.

• You are losing sleep, constantly arguing with your spouse, considering divorce or contemplating suicide because of financial pressures.

• You are considering doing something illegal, or thinking of pursuing shady credit repair strategies, in order to relieve the pressure of dealing with your creditors.

• You are jeopardizing your family’s health, nourishment or home in order to pay creditors.

Anyone who identifies with one of these warning signs, says Ryan, should schedule a free consultation with a bankruptcy attorney and explore their options.

“It’s called the Bankruptcy Protection Act for a reason: to give people a fresh start, to help you get a clean slate,” reminds Ryan.

If bankruptcy is your best option, Ryan warns against immediately jumping at new credit offers, as so many people do. Your best strategy? Avoid getting any new credit for one year, says Ryan, who offers bankrupt consumers a free tip sheet on the Do’s and Don’ts of Bouncing Back from Bankruptcy at her website, http://www.newcreditafterbankruptcy.com

“It takes more than becoming debt free to break the debt cycle. You have to change the attitudes and habits that got you into debt in the first place,” says Ryan. “Consumers who do that have a much better chance of having a secure financial future.”

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