Bankruptcy Myths

We all have preconceived ideas about consumer bankruptcy, but the most common stereotype of bankruptcy doesn’t stir up a lot of sympathy for most of us. We picture a young, reckless American adult, privileged and unschooled in smart spending and saving, who has racked up credit card debt through frivolous living (picture: vacations, fancy cars, a mortgage they can’t afford) who is suddenly reduced to eating Ramen noodles, pawning valuables, and asking friends to foot the bill at restaurants. We see their demise and think, well, that serves you right.

Only a handful of bankruptcies actually look like this. Surprised? Don’t be. The past decade has involved plenty of ups and downs in the U.S. economy, making Americans seasick as they struggle to get a hold of their finances in turbulent times. As a result, the face of bankruptcy has changed quite a bit. While it’s true that the stereotype of the “irresponsible spender” characterizes the bankruptcy field, let’s get one thing straight: more factors than irresponsible spending drive people to bankruptcy.

There are quite a few myths reinforced by years of media and movies into the American mind that simply are not true, especially now that bankruptcy is shifting in America.

Myth #1: Only irresponsible spenders file bankruptcy.

As I just pointed out, times are changing, and the economy has forced the hands of unlikely people to declare bankruptcy. Nowadays, bankruptcy hits normal families with normal spending habits just as often as it hits the reckless spenders among us. In fact, in the thousands of bankruptcy cases I’ve filed, it’s actually quite rare that I run across “reckless spenders”. Most clients simply got blindsided by job loss or unforeseen medical or other expenses. For many people, filing bankruptcy is a desperate reach for a lifesaver at the mercy of expensive healthcare costs due to illness or injury, student debt, divorce proceedings, or just the rising costs of life: food, housing, education, etc. Job loss, too, plays a role in bankruptcy.

Myth #2:  It’s nearly impossible to recover financially from bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy is our nation’s way of protecting the debtor and providing a route to financial freedom. It is the path to recovery! Of course, the way out is through sound and smart habits: using credit cards wisely, ensuring that your credit is being reported back to the credit bureau, saving, and paying bills on time. Even in a tough financial climate, it is possible to regain a footing and get out of the nightmare of debt. See my pages about life after bankruptcy for more information.

Myth #3: You can discharge your entire debt load through bankruptcy.

Certain types of debt cannot be discharged under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. If you think about it, we’d all be declaring bankruptcy if we could get rid of all our debt so easily, and you can imagine how this federal protection would quickly become abused. In 2005, the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) prohibited student loans from being discharged through bankruptcy. Debts incurred through improper behavior are not discharged, such as through fraud, malicious injury to a person, personal injury to another person, or injury caused by the debtor’s operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated. In addition, certain types of tax claims, debt for spousal or child support, debts to the government are not typically discharged. You can read more about it at Bankruptcy Debt Relief.

Myth #4: Your credit is ruined forever if you file for bankruptcy.

A bankruptcy will stay on your credit report for anywhere from 7 to 10 years, depending on whether you file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. But your credit will begin to get better quickly after the bankruptcy, and you can even buy a home in 2-3 years.

Myth #5: College-educated people with successful jobs rarely file bankruptcy.

The Institute for Financial Literacy reported in 2011 that “college education doesn’t appear to ward off bankruptcy as the rate of degree holders filing bankruptcy increased by 20%” in the five years prior to the report. In addition, during those five years, bankruptcy filers with incomes above $60,000 increased their rate of filing by over 66%.

If you’ve gone to college, had a fairly successful life, and feel shame at the thought of declaring bankruptcy, understand that the numbers are shifting. It’s normal to cringe at the thought of filing for bankruptcy, but the reality is that more and more educated, successful professionals have accepted this as the route to regain their feet under them when debt piles too high.

How Bakersfield and Temecula Bankruptcy Lawyer Scott Bell can help

If you do these things, your family will get through bankruptcy proceedings much better. Just be sure to be honest with yourself, and each other. If you have found yourself in unmanageable debt, but are still hesitant to file for bankruptcy, come discuss it with us with a free consultation. You can reach us at (661) 243-1737 or (951) 296-6775. You can also speak with us directly through the Live Chat feature of our website.

Don’t let your debt ruin your life. There is a way out. Let us help.