(WHTM) — Many pandemic-era protections are coming to an end.
That can lead to serious consequences for people in debt.
In fact, some are now turning to bankruptcy
“The pandemic was challenging not only for everybody from a mental health perspective but from a financial health perspective,” financial attorney Leslie Tayne said.
Many of the financial protections that were put in place to debt have ended or will be ending soon.
“Consumers need to understand that at this point in time you have to pay your bill, and with that it requires a focus again on where do you stand post pandemic,” Tayne said.
Those bills, on top of the rising cost of everything due to inflation, are leaving many people struggling to keep up.
Tayne says bankruptcy rates have doubled over the last year. It’s a very serious step.
“I think consumers often see bankruptcy as i’m just going to file bankruptcy and be done with it,” she said.
She says declaring bankruptcy isn’t as simple as just erasing your debts.
“It isn’t always as simple as the debts are gone because there are some debts that you want to maintain at times,” she said.
One example is a mortgage. But when you have a large debt and you have no means to pay it back, bankruptcy could be the best option.
A Chapter 7 wipes out all your debts.
A Chapter 13 is a repayment plan over 3 to 5 years, but there’s no guarantee your debts will be wiped clean.
Both come with serous repercussions.
“It’s not as cut and dry as it may sound that, ‘ Oh I’m just going to go in and I’m going to take my debt that I can’t pay anymore and I’m just going to get a judge to wipe it out.’ No, that bankruptcy trustee is going to open every single box in your financial world to find out where your assets are,” Tayne said.
Bankruptcy will stay on your credit report for 10 years, you’ll pay the highest interest rates, and you will most likely need a co-signer on big purchases.
Tayne says bankruptcy is a last resort.
Now is the time to look at your budget and to prioritize needs vs. wants.
“Now more than ever consumers should be finding ways to put money in the bank, have cash available and build a savings fund where you can take advantage of high interest rates as opposed to letting high interest rates take advantage of you,” she said.
Look for extra ways to supplement your income, like a second job.
“Paying down debt takes time, consumers need to understand it’s not an overnight process,” Tayne said.
Tayne also suggest looking into alternatives to bankruptcy, like debt settlement and consolidation.
But be careful, with so many people needing these services, scam artists are taking advantage. That’s why it’s important to do your research.