Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans file for bankruptcy. Even though it damages the consumer’s credit for years and many people would do almost anything to avoid bankruptcy, it’s sometimes the best and fastest way for a debtor to recover from financial hardship.
It’s not a decision to make lightly, but it’s also an option you don’t want to ignore for too long, because if your situation could be helped by bankruptcy, you only prolong your financial struggle by putting it off. There are many signs bankruptcy might be right for you, like seeing your debt balances grow even though you’re making payments, raiding your retirement savings to make debt payments, struggling with an underwater mortgage, or putting others — such as your family— at risk if you don’t take care of your debt.
A bankruptcy can remain on your credit reports for up to 10 years from the date it was filed, though you might be able to have it removed earlier. Once you file for bankruptcy, you want to start practicing good credit habits, like making any remaining debt payments on time and keeping credit balances very low. You could use a secured credit card to rebuild your credit, (here are some of the best secured credit cards out there) and you’ll also want to make sure you stay on top of other financial obligations, so unpaid bills don’t get sent to a debt collector and end up damaging your already-shaky credit standing. You can also track your credit rebuilding progress by getting a free credit report summary every 30 days on Credit.com.
In 2014, there were 898,970 non-business bankruptcy filings in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, coming out to a bankruptcy rate of 2.8 people in bankruptcy per 1,000 people. In a few parts of the country, bankruptcy is much more common, according to bankruptcy data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and 2014 population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. Here are the states with the highest bankruptcy rates last year.
2014 bankruptcy rate: 3.62 bankruptcies per 1,000 people
Bankruptcy rate: 3.71 per 1,000
Bankruptcy rate: 3.78 per 1,000
Bankruptcy rate: 3.79 per 1,000
Bankruptcy rate: 4.36 per 1,000
Bankruptcy rate: 4.59 per 1,000
Bankruptcy rate: 4.68 per 1,000
Bankruptcy rate: 5.1314 per 1,000
Bankruptcy rate: 5.1316 per 1,000
Bankruptcy rate: 5.89 per 1,000
Bankruptcy is a worthwhile consideration for anyone who struggling with debts they can’t expect to repay over the course of a few years, but it’s not a get-out-of-debt-free strategy. Filing for bankruptcy takes a huge toll on your credit, and you generally can’t discharge student loans in bankruptcy. Consult a bankruptcy attorney to find out if it’s the best option for you.
More on Managing Debt:
- The Credit.com Debt Management Learning Center
- Understanding Your Debt Collection Rights
- Top 10 Debt Collection Rights