Although we all know that dealing with money and numbers are supposed to be a logical, black and white process, sans emotion, few of us can act that way-whether we have lots of cash, or a dwindling supply. Financial success can lead us to feeling euphoric, while financial woes send us into deep despair. Sometimes our emotions are also what cause us to use poor judgment when spending, investing, or making business decisions.
One of the greatest things we can learn in life is excellent money management skills. Even if you possess such savvy though, life circumstances may arise that cause extreme financial duress beyond your control. This could be due to unemployment and loss of health benefits, even after years working for the same company. Or perhaps you became ill, injured, or debilitated-again, leading to further lack of income when you couldn't work. Many factors can play into financial strain. The key is in finding a solution, even when you may feel as if you have hit rock bottom. At a time like that, it can be hard to confide in anyone due to feelings of embarrassment or shame.
If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, whether Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, you may have countless questions. You are probably concerned about impending sacrifices, whether you must give up all or most of your assets and how long will the entire process will last. Many debtors hope to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy as nearly all debts are discharged within a 3 to 6 months period. This is not always feasible though, due to income qualifications (see our recent blog, 'What is the Means Test--And What if I Don't Pass?'). In that case, or for other reasons such as wanting to save a home from foreclosure, you may end up filing for Chapter 13, and wondering what happens in the three- to five-year timeframe.
While you can file for bankruptcy without an attorney, it is not recommended unless you have an in-depth grasp of bankruptcy law and the many intricate details involved in the process. There is a learning curve involved to understand all aspects of filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Without a skilled bankruptcy attorney, this learning curve is usually extremely time-consuming and challenging. Before you get started, it is important to seek expert advice on whether bankruptcy is right for you and if so what type of bankruptcy.
Honesty is the best policy when it comes to dealing with the bankruptcy court and communicating with the bankruptcy trustee. The Trustees usually have enormous experience in working with debtors, and know when someone is not truthful. It is therefore critical that you be entirely truthful in your petition.
While many debtors find Chapter 7 bankruptcy to be an attractive choice for filing due to the discharge available in three to six months, if they cannot pass the Means test, they must file for Chapter 13 instead. Known as the income-based bankruptcy, Chapter 13 offers many different benefits to the filer; for instance, if your home is under threat of foreclosure, it will be stopped immediately with the automatic stay, an injunction which prohibits creditors from pursuing any collections activity throughout the duration of the bankruptcy. If you are behind on payments, they can also be included in the repayment plan, allowing you to catch up-if you are also making your normal monthly.
There is often a lot of emotion attached to how and when we spend money. For instance, we spend when we are happy, we indulge in retail therapy when we are bored or sad, and we may even feel depressed when we cannot pay the bills. While mismanagement of money is sometimes the reason for our financial downfall, more often it is due to an unexpected life event like a major illness, car accident, loss of job, or even divorce.
If you are considering bankruptcy or have just filed, you are probably looking forward to exiting a dark time. Financial problems can happen to anyone-but no matter the level of accomplishment or income you may have achieved, people often feel embarrassed when they file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Hundreds of thousands of people file bankruptcies every year in the United States, often doing so after years of struggling to keep up with the ever-increasing cost of living. And as you may have experienced, mild financial problems escalate quickly when an unexpected (and expensive) event occurs like the loss of a job, illness, divorce, and more.
You can probably relate to the ups and downs of trying to get by financially today. Millions of others around the US are feeling the stress of balancing the household budget also, especially as the cost of living continues to rise while wage increases for many either are insufficient or are completely nonexistent. The way we feel when we have a positive grip on our finances can be hard to describe-but the reverse can often be defined as disturbing, anxiety-inducing, and downright nightmarish. Much of this stems from feeling helpless-and you very well may be somewhat helpless to pay numerous bills, especially if you have been hit hard by a medical issue, unemployment, divorce, overwhelming student loan debt and more.