How Does Bankruptcy Happen?

By Pete | @kingpetey | 09 Dec 2016

Most of us were raised to believe that bankruptcy only happened to deadbeats and the financially irresponsible. We were raised to believe that bankruptcy was always someone’s fault and that it could easily be avoided. We were also taught that bankruptcy would ruin our financial prospects for most of our lives. The stereotypes we were raised to believe were wrong.

Changes have been made to bankruptcy laws that have made the process easier and something every filer should be able to overcome. In fact, the experts at San Diego bankruptcy firm, Doan Law, say bankruptcy can even improve your FICO score in most cases.

So how does bankruptcy happen?

Medical Expenses

Today one of the most common impetuses behind filing for bankruptcy is medical bills. People go through an emergency health issue and the resulting bills are too much for them. Even if the hospital is willing to work out a payment plan, the bills are often so large that there is no hope of paying them off within the patient’s lifetime.

It’s true that there are fewer medical-related bankruptcy cases filed these days. The Affordable Care Act (known colloquially as Obamacare) has made healthcare much more affordable for many. It has not, however, completely wiped medical bankruptcies out.

Other Insurance Issues

By now most of you have likely seen the insurance commercial where the agent says that unicorn stampedes are covered by the homeowner’s policy but, unfortunately, flooding is not. Accidents and emergencies that cause significant damage to a person’s home or transportation are another significant source of bankruptcy claims. This is because home and automobile insurance policies are not as strictly regulated as medical insurance companies are now.

Financial Stumbles

These can happen to the best of us and, often, in spite of our better efforts. Consider the following example:

You recently got divorced and you weren’t awarded spousal support or alimony (or, worse, you have to pay it to someone else). It’s not a huge deal. With some downsizing and strict budgeting, you’re sure you can make it work. But life turns out to be slightly more expensive on your own than you had anticipated. People keep wanting you to go out to dinner or take part in other admission-required events. You find yourself pulling out your credit card more than you want to.

Before long, your card is maxed out and your utility bills are due but you can’t pay them because you were pressured into chipping in a bunch of money for a coworker’s baby shower gift. So you opt for a short term loan. The high interest is alarming,  but your bank doesn’t offer loans in the small amount you need so you go with what you can get.

Then, when the loan comes due, the interest is more than you thought it would be and you wind up having to take out another payday loan to pay off the first. And then you need to open up a new line of credit to continue paying your utilities and monthly expenses while you use your salary to pay off your payday loans and your rent. And it just keeps snowballing from there.

Then you get downsized and the financial tightrope you’ve been walking gives way. Sure you could go through debt consolidation but that takes forever and you really need the fresh start--especially since most employers run credit checks as well as background checks on potential recruits these days. Bankruptcy is your only option.

This feels like one of those “that will never happen to me” kind of situations but for many it is all too familiar. Some aren’t able to simply move home or in with roommates. Some don’t have family and friends who would be willing to help bail them out.

Another Common Scenario

You made the leap into freelancing! Good for you! You track your earnings and, in spite of your best intentions, everything you earn gets paid right back out toward your rent, utilities and other necessities. And then tax time comes and you find yourself thousands of dollars in debt to your state and the federal government, so you take out a loan to pay that off. The added expense puts more pressure on you to take on more work but that is slow going (this isn’t your fault, all freelancers experience ebbs and flows). You rely on your credit too much to make ends meet and soon your credit has been exhausted and your score is tanked. You can’t get a new loan. You can’t break your current lease. What do you do?

Bankruptcy can happen to anybody at any time. It no longer carries the stigma it used to. Don’t be afraid to use this option if you need to. Better a fresh start than a lifetime of running from collectors, right?

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