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Steps to Avoid Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy, debt, saving, cash-strapped
The common wisdom about how to avoid?
Don’t get in over your head with debt.
Keep an emergency fund of six months salary.
Live frugally.

For the person who is currently treading water in a sea of debt or who is saddled with a home that has declined significantly in value, this advice is hard to follow. Whether you bought too much house or fell behind on your bills due to job loss or illness, you may find yourself in precarious shape and bankruptcy seems like the only viable option.

Bankruptcy may reduce your debt, but it has great repercussions on your credit score, your ability to find a job, and your ability to obtain credit in the future. For some people, it may offer a clean slate, but bankruptcy revisions in 2005 made it more likely that you will still be responsible for paying a portion of your debt. You may have to sell your assets, including your home. While you are paying down your debt, you have the added stigma of the bankruptcy on your record. If possible, you should consider less destructive alternatives to bankruptcy.

Increase your income – In the ideal world, you might prevent bankruptcy by bringing more income into the household. You can take on a second job or more work, have a stay-at-home family member find a job, or tap into savings or 401ks (this is not usually a good idea, but it may be a better alternative to bankruptcy). In the current economy, increasing your income might be tough.

Reduce your monthly income requirements – By squeezing the fat from your budget, you may be able to redirect some income toward other obligations. The things you cut however – the cable TV, the lattes from the coffee shop, the eating out – may only put a couple hundred dollars back into circulation.

Work out the debt with creditors – Creditors may agree to reduce your payments or freeze your interest rates. If you take your problems to a consumer credit counselor, you may find help in negotiating with your credit card companies.

Dump the debt – If the big income drain for you is the house or car payment, shedding these assets may either put your finances in the black or at least stop the bleeding. If you see that you could manage without having to make these payments, proactively selling the house or car can prevent foreclosure or repossession.

What other ways can you avoid bankruptcy?

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