You’ve surely heard these 6 words of wisdom before. But if you’re in debt, heeding them might be hazardous to your financial health.
If you are in debt and struggling to get out, there are six very dangerous words that may affect your financial future in significant ways. If you hear these words, put up your guard, and question carefully whether they are true.
Before I tell you what those words are, let me first state that I am not a bankruptcy attorney or credit counselor, and I don’t run a debt-relief firm. I consider myself an educator, and my goal for more than 20 years has always been to try my best to provide consumers with reliable answers to their credit questions. The method they choose to resolve their debt problems makes no difference to me personally.
With that out of the way, here are those six dangerous words:
“Bankruptcy should be your last resort.”
By taking these words to heart, many consumers have caused themselves needless heartache and enormous financial pain. Yet, these words are perpetuated by the news media, financial advisers and creditors every day. (I am sure I’ve said them myself!) Sometimes those stating this “fact” mean well, but at other times they have their own agenda that may be at odds with you getting the help you need.
1. Your health will suffer. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve spoken with who have become physically ill due to their financial difficulties. They don’t sleep; their stress levels are sky high; and they often suffer from depression. Some turn to alcohol, overeat or find other unhealthy ways to self-medicate. Ironically, when people are under financial stress, they may also be unable to pay for the medical care they need, which only makes the problem worse. If that sounds like you, consulting a bankruptcy attorney can help. Even if you decide not to file, it will allow you to put some of your questions to rest. Questions such as, “What if I can’t pay the mortgage/credit cards/car payment? What can they do to me?” deserve an expert answer.
2. You will make expensive — and sometimes irreversible — financial mistakes. Nothing is as heartbreaking as talking with someone nearing retirement age who has cashed out their retirement savings to make payments on credit cards, only to find they have to file for bankruptcy anyway. Or to hear from someone who kept paying on an unaffordable mortgage while essential expenses, such as medication or car payments, went unpaid. These mistakes may only compound the problem and make it last a lot longer.
3. You will easily be misled. You’ll likely spend a lot of time on the Internet researching your options. Or, less likely, you may talk to friends or relatives. In the process, you’ll probably get some bad or misleading advice. You might be led to believe, for example, that you can’t file for bankruptcy because you make too much money. But bankruptcy laws are very specific to your state and your situation. An attorney can explain how they apply to you.
4. You will remain stuck where you are. When writing my latest book, “Reduce Debt, Reduce Stress,” I interviewed several people who filed for bankruptcy and described that as a turning point in their lives. (Yes, I also interviewed people who didn’t go that route.) After they filed, they were able to take stock of their lives and make important changes they couldn’t have made while they were still on the debt treadmill. They are now leading lives that are much happier and more successful and productive. Sometimes bankruptcy, like a serious illness, is a wake-up call. The bankruptcy code is there for a reason — to give consumers a fresh start.
The decision to file is not an easy one to make. It’s certainly not one to be taken lightly. And it is important that you consider all your options for resolving your debts. You may have other options, such as credit counseling or negotiating with creditors, which could allow you to resolve your debts and avoid filing.
Even if you think bankruptcy is your last choice for dealing with your financial problems, you shouldn’t put off talking with an attorney until the last minute.