Consumer debt is at an all-time high. Whether your debt dilemma is the result of an illness, unemployment, or simply overspending, it can seem overwhelming. In your effort to get solvent, be on the alert for advertisements that offer seemingly quick fixes. While the ads pitch the promise of debt relief, they rarely say relief may be spelled b-a-n-k-r-u-p-t-c-y. And although bankruptcy is one option to deal with financial problems, it’s generally considered the option of last resort. The reason: its long-term negative impact on your creditworthiness. Bankruptcy information (both the date of your filing and the later date of discharge) stays on your credit report for 10 years and can hinder your ability to get credit, a job, insurance, or even a place to live.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cautions consumers to read between the lines when faced with ads in newspapers, magazines, or even telephone directories that say:
“Consolidate your bills into one monthly payment without borrowing.”
“STOP credit harassment, foreclosures, repossessions, tax levies, and garnishments.”
“Keep Your Property.”
“Wipe out your debts! Consolidate your bills! How? By using the protection and assistance provided by federal law. For once, let the law work for you!”
You’ll find out later that such phrases often involve filing for bankruptcy relief, which can hurt your credit and cost you attorneys’ fees. If you’re having trouble paying your bills, consider these possibilities before considering filing for bankruptcy:
- Talk with your creditors. They may be willing to work out a modified payment plan.
- Contact a credit counseling service. These organizations work with you and your creditors to develop debt repayment plans. Such plans require you to deposit money each month with the counseling service. The service then pays your creditors. Some nonprofit organizations charge little or nothing for their services.
- Carefully consider a second mortgage or home equity line of credit. While these loans may allow you to consolidate your debt, they also require your home as collateral.
- If none of these options is possible, bankruptcy may be the likely alternative. There are two primary types of personal bankruptcy: Chapter 13 and Chapter 7. Each must be filed in federal bankruptcy court. Filing fees are several hundred dollars. For more information visit www.uscourts.gov/bankruptcycourts/fees.html. Attorney fees are additional and can vary.
If you are seeking debt relief, contact ACCC for help. When you contact our approved credit counseling agency, a certified credit advisor will help you evaluate your current financial situation and provide you with personalized debt solutions based on your goals.
For assistance with bankruptcy or to begin the mandated pre-filing bankruptcy counseling session or post-bankruptcy debtor education course, contact ACCC here.