5 Questions to Ask Before You Declare Bankruptcy

You may have lost your job or had your salary cut during the tough financial times that the United States just experienced. Unexpected medical bills may have made your finances a nightmare. Bankruptcy laws were designed not just to protect creditors, but to give you the help you need to make a fresh start and get back on firm financial ground. Here are 5 questions to ask yourself that may give you an idea of where you stand financially.

  1. Do you only make minimum payments on your credit cards? If all you can afford – and it’s a stretch – is to pay the minimum amount on each credit card debt, it may be a sign that you’re in over your head and aren’t making real progress at catching up financially.
  2. Are bill collectors calling you? This tells you that some of your debt has gone on so long that the company has turned it over to an agency to see if they can collect from you. Bill collectors can feel very threatening and may be upsetting for you and your family.
  3. Do you feel scared or out of control when you try to make sense of your finances? You may want to get some professional financial advice to see if an expert can help you create a plan to get out of debt, but this is another sign that your financial problems are overwhelming.
  4. Do you use credit cards to buy necessities? If money is so short that you’re turning to your credit cards to buy things like groceries, it’s another sign that you just aren’t getting by – you’re getting deeper in debt.
  5. Do you know how much you owe? Many times when a person is deeply in debt, they may not really understand the total amount owed as the overlook the things they think they can put off to take care of the more pressing debt.

If you answered “yes” to two or more of the questions above, it’s time to do some hard thinking and get professional help to make the right decision. Start by adding up all your assets including banking balances, retirement funds, stocks, bonds, real estate, vehicles, college savings accounts and other assets. Then, add up your debt – all bills and credit statements. If your debt outweighs your assets, it’s time to talk to a bankruptcy lawyer for the advice you need. Find a law office where you work with the attorney – not an assistant or paralegal.