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The Very Personal Decision to File Bankruptcy

To make any important decision wisely, you first need to become well-informed about your options.  Then you can weigh those options and make the best choice.


You load 16 tons, and what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
St. Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go.
I owe my soul to the company store.

Merle Travis, Sixteen Tons


There’s more to life than cold, hard facts.

BUT in life you DO need to face facts. Accepting reality is one of the hallmarks of maturity and personal integrity.

There’s more to making an important decision than just looking at the rational considerations.

BUT you can only make a good decision by first rationally understanding your options, then weighing them by adding into the mix any intangible considerations like your gut feelings and the opinions of people you trust, and then using all that to make your final choice.

So let’s face some facts today.

Facing Facts

Consider the facts of your present life revealed by your honest answers to these questions:

  • Do you need each paycheck to survive until the next one?
  • Are you regularly borrowing from one debt to pay another?
  • Do you ever use credit cards to pay for your necessary living expenses because you just don’t have the money in your checking account or in cash?
  • Are you spending a chunk of your take-home pay on credit card payments? Do you not really know how much of your pay you’re spending on them?
  • Are you putting anything regularly into savings?
  • Are you regularly contributing towards your retirement? Are you raiding your retirement to survive?  
  • Have you had to ask for financial help from family or friends?
  • Do you not qualify for credit without a co-signer?
  • Do you ever buy things without telling your spouse or family? Are you not upfront with them about your spending, for example by hiding credit card statements?
  • Are you regularly overdue on any of your debts?
  • Have you recently used a “pay day” lender to make it to your next pay day?
  • How about using pawn shops, or selling jewelry or other valuables to come up with money for living expenses or to pay creditors?
  • Do you consistently pay only the minimum amounts on your credit cards, and hate to see how many years it’ll take to pay them off at your present rate?
  • Do you carefully gauge when you write a check and when you have to cover it because you need every bit of financial slack you can find?
  • Are you vague in your own mind about your total debt?
  • Have you had the embarrassment of having your credit card declined?
  • Have you bounced any checks, other than once in a blue moon?
  • Are creditors calling and sending you past due bills?
  • Are you required to pay higher interest rates for whenever you are able to get credit?
  • Have you been denied new credit, or had your credit limit reduced?
  • Are you financially getting ahead or consistently falling behind?
  • And if you are falling behind, is there a realistic reason why that would significantly change for the better soon?

Making the Right Decision

If those questions get you thinking that something needs to change, the next step is to get a clear-eyed, objective picture of your options. Once you see those options clearly, then you can bring in all the personal nuances that you want in making the decision that is right for you.

For two big reasons, you need an experienced debtors’ and bankruptcy attorney to get you to that clear view of your options:

1. The law in this area is not at all straightforward. It’s full of misconceptions, half-truths, illogical-seeming twists and turns, odd mixtures of federal and state laws, differences between states and regions, and abrupt changes. Even attorneys who know something about bankruptcy often get seriously confused if they are not constantly active in this field.  Even when something seems straightforward, there can be critical considerations under the surface that you or an inexperienced attorney could easily miss. The right attorney will be intimately familiar with all the layers of the relevant laws to be able to advise you accurately.

2. Your bankruptcy cases may be more or less legally complex but, no matter what, it will be unique because you are unique. Your experienced bankruptcy attorney will not just spout off to you about legal options, but will carefully lay those out to you intimately based on your personal situation. He or she will make recommendations to you grounded on a thorough understanding of both the law AND of you.

Once you accept the truth that something needs to change, you need to meet with a good attorney for a consultation so that you can rationally understand your options. THEN and only then can you weigh those options through the lens of your life experience and make a wise decision, with as much or as little guidance as you want from your attorney for your final decision.  

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