There may not be any options when consumer debt becomes uncontrollable. Bankruptcy may be the best way to seek a fresh financial start. Statistics compiled by Research help illustrate how bankruptcy is used in this country.
Loss of income was cited as the most common cause of bankruptcies. Medical debt, which was usually believed to be the top cause, was second. However, medical debt is cited because it also causes income and job loss. Unaffordable mortgage or foreclosure was the third highest cause.
Personal bankruptcy reached its highest level in 2005 during the great recession but has decreased since 2010. Chapter 7 filings, while decreasing, still constituted 58.37 or the highest number of filed bankruptcies in 2006. These dropped from 2005 to 2006 because there was a rush of filings before the Chapter 7 laws became more stringent in 2006. But these filings increased over the next four years.
Chapter 7 is known as liquidation bankruptcy. It allows debtors to liquidate all their nonexempt property and discharge their debt within three to six months.
The average age of bankruptcy filers is older. From 2006 to 2010, the 18 to 44 age groups decreased while bankruptcy for the 45-54-year-old age groups increased. Fifty percent of debtors were between 35 and 54 from 1994 to 2006.
Bankruptcy is a larger problem in the southern part of the nation because, in general, these states have more seasonal work, changing wages and their median income is lower. Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia had the highest number of bankruptcies per capita.
Like the pay gap, there are differences in bankruptcy rates among genders. Because of this wage gap, more women filed bankruptcy than men according to the most recent data.
A college education improves earning potential and lowers the risk of bankruptcy. Individuals with bachelor’s and graduate degrees filed for bankruptcy at below-average rates.
Another troubling trend is that African American debtors file Chapter 13 bankruptcies at higher rates because they cannot afford to put money down for an attorney for Chapter 7 filings. But they are less successful is discharging debt because Chapter 13 requires completion of a payment plan and its discharge rates are substantially lower than Chapter 7.
Working with an attorney can help develop a plan that meet your needs. A lawyer may help assure that your rights are protected.