The decision to file for bankruptcy is never an easy one to make. There are a number of myths surrounding filing for bankruptcy, which can oftentimes lead people to wait. It often can seem like an admission of personal or financial failure, and for this reason, many filers will hold off on filing for bankruptcy for years, allowing their financial issues to only worsen. In fact, the longer people wait to file for bankruptcy, the more likely they will end up struggling, according to a law review study recently published. By the time the individual files for bankruptcy, their personal life and well-being, as well as their financial situation will be damaged to the point where getting a fresh start can be extremely difficult.
Waiting Can Be Draining
The period of time before an individual files for bankruptcy is often referred to as a “financial sweatbox.” The filers are already under an immense amount of stress, are facing debt collector phone calls and lawsuits and are going without basic necessities to avoid the inevitable: having to file for bankruptcy. This “sweat it out” period can end up lasting for years before the person finally comes to the decision that bankruptcy is best for him or her. A recent Notre Dame Law Review piece titled “Life in the Sweatbox” focused on this period of time, showing how waiting it out can be more damaging than making the leap to file for bankruptcy sooner rather than later.
The study used data from the Consumer Bankruptcy Project, which is a long-term academic research project that focus on people who end up filing for bankruptcy, reviewing the reasons why they file, as well as the consequences. The data includes information from approximately 3,200 bankruptcy cases between the years 2013 and 2016. “Life in the Sweatbox” focuses on 910 of the 3,200 filers.
Of those surveyed, over 66 percent of them were determined to be “long strugglers,” meaning they had been in the sweatbox for over two years. Approximately one-third of them waited five years or more to file for bankruptcy. They reviewed statistics from 2007 which showed that the number of people who were “long strugglers” doubled in numbers.
The problem is the longer the people waited, the worse their financial situation became. Those who waited had half the median assets compared to other debtors who did not wait or did not wait as long. In addition, the median debt-to-income ratio of these long strugglers was over 40 percent higher than other debtors. Approximately 50 percent of the long-term strugglers were facing debt collection lawsuits while only 35 percent of the others were facing them.
It was discussed that the stigma that exists around filing is what keeps people from making that decision to file for bankruptcy. However, bankruptcy laws provide the ability for debtors to get a fresh start. Prolonging the decision to file only allows for assets to be depleted making it even more difficult for the person to get a true fresh start.
When to File for Bankruptcy
If a person’s debts are more than 40 percent of his or her income, it is recommended that he or she reaches out for financial guidance. Also, if the person is using debt to pay for basic necessities or other debts, this is another red flag that perhaps that person is in over his or her head.
A bankruptcy attorney can review what debts are crippling the individual. If they are unsecured consumer debts, including credit cards, personal loans or medical bills, these can all be wiped out in bankruptcy. Lastly, if the individual is forgoing basic necessities such as food or medical care, it is highly recommended that he or she discuss options with a consumer bankruptcy attorney.
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If you have questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.