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Is There Really a Need for Bankruptcy Education and Counseling?

 

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Receiving Bankruptcy Counseling

According to recent statistics, Americans filed 936,795 bankruptcies in 2014. Though these are shocking numbers, there’s no denying that it’s been a hard financial decade for many Americans; and many families are just starting to recover.

In many cases, people don’t expect to learn anything from the bankruptcy process. They think you just declare bankruptcy and some governing body says yes or no based on the information you’ve provided, and that’s it. However, not only is the bankruptcy process more complicated than this, you must also complete credit counseling and take bankruptcy education courses to help you understand how you arrived at your bankruptcy in the first place.

 

Lawmakers designed these courses to:

  1. Truly assess your financial situation,
  2. Help you make better financial choices in the future, and
  3. Help you genuinely understand credit

Though many people may feel an aversion to finance, most Americans would benefit from a required financial education course in high school and/or college; before entering the working world. Bankruptcy courses provide the much needed guidance that most Americans would likely admit to never getting otherwise.

What to Expect

If you are considering bankruptcy, the first step would be to consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney. While an attorney is not required to file for bankruptcy, most experts recommend working with one (even for simple Chapter 7 bankruptcies), just to ensure that all of the necessary legal paperwork is completed in a timely matter and to guide you through the process.

Within 180 days of filing, you have to complete a Credit Counseling Course. This course is really a review of your finances. An expert will help you go through your finances and expense to debt ratio, to decide if you have any other alternatives to bankruptcy, like debt consolidation. Even if your credit counselor recommends a repayment program, you don’t have to follow his/her advice. You do, however, have to present a Certificate of Completion to the judge, or else your case can be dismissed.

Before your case closes, you have to take a Debtor Education Course. You need to show the judge a Certificate of Completion for this course as well. If you’ve filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you have to complete the course before making your last plan payment. If you’ve filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you have to complete the course within 60 days of your 341 Hearing. This course helps you:

  • Learn to use credit wisely in the future,
  • Manage and budget money,
  • Make sound financial decisions, and
  • Truly enjoy your bankruptcy as a relief from financial distress, (by not creating more financial distress)

Contact us to learn more about our affordable, convenient and government approved bankruptcy courses! 

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What Do Bankruptcy And Animals Have in Common?

if-bankruptcy-were-an-animalWhen sitting down to write this post, I had a long hard think: If bankruptcy were an animal, what would it be? Would it be a fierce predator, ready to make its attack on its unassuming prey, or would it be the prey itself, quivering behind a bush and plotting its escape?

Sometimes you may feel like bankruptcy is the predator and you are the prey – something that on first glance, you are entirely justified in believing. But let’s take a step back for a moment and think. Bankruptcy is a form of debt relief. It did not occur to cause you financial problems; it is there as a result of them. In short: by discharging your debts and filing for bankruptcy, you are able to start fresh financially. It ends your financial worries.

You could almost go as far as to say bankruptcy is rescuing you from a financial future riddled with stress and debt. So referring back to the question at the beginning of this post: if bankruptcy were an animal, what would it be? Which animals spring to mind when thinking of rescue?

Perhaps a seeing eye dog? Fiercely loyal to their owner during times of need, these dogs are specifically trained to provide a service to the visually impaired. They are protecting them against unexpected obstacles, and ensuring they reach their destination safely and unharmed.

I’m sure you can see where we are going with this. Isn’t this exactly what bankruptcy does? It provides a service to those struggling financially, protecting them against their mountain of debt and ensuring they are put forth on the road to a fresher, brighter financial future – safely and unharmed. Just like a seeing eye dog, bankruptcy guides people along the right path. Credit Counseling, Debtor Education…these are both found on the route to your fresh start.

At first this may seem like a far-fetched comparison, but the point to note is that the negative perception of bankruptcy is far from the truth. Upon reflection, the opportunity to have your debts discharged through bankruptcy is actually something to feel good about. It is your opportunity to begin again. Like a cat – you are being given an opportunity to use the 2nd of your 9 lives. And this time you will land on your feet. Just like a cat always does.

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The Song Of Bankruptcy: Your Melody of Money

bankruptcy-musicFor as long as we can remember, recording artists put pen to paper – and hands to instruments – to showcase their musical talents to their adoring public. Most songs follow the same pattern in most cases: chorus, verse, repeat, then after the orchestral climax in the middle as the song gets into full swing, it comes to an – often abrupt – end. Often the focus is about love – first love, happiness, unrequited feelings, heartbreak or otherwise. And each and every song conveys a message; more often than not about that love and the happiness – and tragedies – that accompany it.

So how is bankruptcy similar to this?

During this time, money is not exactly the object of your affection, but it is taking center stage in your thought processes right now. So to put it into a musical context, the song of bankruptcy would not be a consistently happy one – similar to those countless melodies you hear filled with the agonizing pain of unrequited love. But oftentimes, it is the sad, songs of a slow tempo that tug at your heart strings the most, and are the most relatable.

It would perhaps start in a melancholy fashion, and will feature many twists and turns up until the finale – a much welcome finale in the case of bankruptcy and financial woes. We even wrote a post on this recently, on the emotional bankruptcy cycle. Stress, anger, sadness…these are all completely normal emotions to experience during this time in your life. You, among all the hundreds of thousands of other bankruptcy filers each year, are all experiencing the same thing. And your bankruptcy song will follow very much the same pattern as the filers around you.

It may not have a large accepting audience, but that is nothing to concern yourself with at this stage. To quote the famous Dr. Seuss, “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” Surround yourself with true friends when showcasing your bankruptcy melody. They will stick by you through thick and thin. Even if you have difficulty singing in tune or strumming a guitar. 😉

There are many steps to take into consideration in the process of having your debts discharged – predominantly finding an EOUST-approved provider of the required Credit Counseling and Debtor Education. These would form the body of the first and last verses, respectively. And the remainder of the song is all about you. What do you want to sing about during this time? How have your financial troubles impacted you? Now is your time to relieve yourself of this stressful burden for just a few moments, and envisage life after filing –financial freedom, lower stress levels, and for those of you who are tone deaf, there will hopefully be no reason to subject your friends and family to any more singsongs. 😉

If you aren’t one for singing, perhaps try our bankruptcy video game? It doesn’t matter how you keep your spirits high during a period of financial distress, so long as you have an outlet to effectively do so. When making the strides to eliminate your debts, remember the most important person in all of this: you. Remember to be kind to yourself and keep your spirits lifted. Just like how a heart-warming song does for the soul.

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The Bankruptcy Video Game: Would You Buy It?

bankruptcy-gameAre you, or have you ever been, an avid video gamer? Could you easily watch the hours fly by as you engage with quirky characters from virtual realms, defending fictitious countries against demons and dragons? I always remember such a sense of satisfaction whenever your weapon of choice would completely destroy the enemy. Bankruptcy demons, watch out.

One of the main purposes of a video game – despite being a fantastic way to procrastinate during exam season – is the offering of an escape from reality. It allows us to forget our stresses and strains for a short time – or a long one, depending on how soon those impending exams are. As your typical ‘angry-at-the-world’ teenager, I also took great comfort in the fact that putting my metaphorical gaming hat on and disappearing into an interactive dimension made it a lot easier to block out the people around me.

Regardless of who you are, people’s unwarranted contributions and opinions can still grate. No matter what you are struggling with, people will claim to understand your situation even better than you do yourself. In going through bankruptcy, there will be an abundance of people offering their points of view on the subject, and more often than not it will be from those who have never truly contemplated the true stresses and strains associated with such a financial struggle.

For example.

“It could be worse.”

Don’t you just hate that expression? It is almost as bad as, “We’ve all been there” – but not quite. There you are, allowing yourself a short amount of time to wallow in some self pity, and someone comes along and takes your right to complain straight out of your hands. “It could be worse,” they say, “Imagine if X, Y, Z…” They then proceed to rattle off a list of – admittedly awful – circumstances that could worsen your predicament quite significantly. But sometimes during periods of struggle and distress, all we need is an empathetic ear.

We want to complain that we are struggling. We want to dwell on the fact that the process of having our debts discharged is a tedious and laborious one. It is stressful. Not the end of the world, admittedly, but stressful nonetheless.

In short, we want a pick-me-up. It is nice to be reminded that in filing for bankruptcy, you are not defining who you are as a human being. It does not constitute your character or genetic makeup. It is not a determinant of your future successes. Consider it one of life’s inconveniences that you are currently suffering through, and so long as you are being proactive in rectifying the financial wrongs, you are allowed to let yourself experience whatever emotions come to hand.

At Affordable Bankruptcy Courses, we are experienced in the bankruptcy arena and the wide emotional spectrum that comes with it. Fear, anger, sadness…we’ve seen it all. We offer people their much-needed escape from reality during this time, in helping them towards the discharging of their debts. There are no demons and dragons in our world, just the Credit Counseling and Debtor Education needed to get you on the road to financial success.

If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, you are welcome to play our video gameentirely metaphorical, but unbeatable in terms of the rewards you reap from playing. That way you can proactively tackle your financial struggles while always looking forward. And if you feel like taking a moment to yourself, that is entirely warranted. Allow it.

In short: even though it is never a good thing to dwell in negativity, sometimes we just need to let it out of our system. And that is ok, so long as it is sporadic. After a short amount of wallowing, it is time to pick yourself up and remind yourself of the positives.

Like ice cream. No matter how bad things get, Ben & Jerry will always be there for you.

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Cycle Your Clients Through Bankruptcy

bankruptcy-cycleAs a competent and experienced attorney in the industry, you know all too well that bankruptcy is an interesting concept – lasting an indeterminate amount of time based on each individual case and their variants. Sometimes it sneaks up on people without them realizing it; other times they feel themselves standing frozen in its headlights as it moves towards them in slow motion, clear for all to see. Yet despite these differences, every bankruptcy filer experiences the same emotions: fear, panic, stress, anger, sadness, and then…relief.

Yes, the cycle of bankruptcy is all too common. To the bankruptcy attorneys out there, paying particular attention to this could put you one step ahead of your competitors. Being aware of the emotions your clients are experiencing enables you to most effectively cater to their needs. This makes happy customers, which means a good reputation for your bankruptcy law firm, leading to a successful business = smiles all round!

So, let’s get cycling!

Step 1: Fear“What am I going to do? I can’t file for bankruptcy; everyone will think I am a failure and it’s going to be so stressful, it’s going to be on my record forever and stop me from ever moving forward. Everyone will look at me differently.” The regular readers of this blog will know our sentiments on this: a bankruptcy is not a failure! It also does not define your successes in the future. Many rich and famous celebrities have even filed for bankruptcy, and went on to experience great success after their filing. Remind them that bankruptcy is not the end; it is the beginning of their new stress-free financial future.

Step 2: Panic“I am struggling; I have NO choice but to file. This is really happening to me! What am I going to do?!” We wrote several posts on authors to inspire your clients through bankruptcy, featuring Roald Dahl, George Orwell, Ernest Hemingway, A. A. Milne, Oscar Wilde, Emily Dickinson, Jane Austen and Stephen King. These posts were written with your clients in mind, to ease the panic involved in the bankruptcy process and the discharging of their debts. Advise them to take a look, and see if they are put at easy by any of the sentiments mentioned in our writing.

Step 3: Stress“How am I going to get through this? There is so much to think about and prepare, I don’t know how I can manage all of this on my own.” Now is a great time to let your clients know that they can do this. Inform them that they have already taken the most important step in the right direction, and that their bravery has not gone unnoticed. Remind them that they are not alone, and you are there to help guide them through every step of the bankruptcy process.

Step 4: Anger– “I can’t believe I got myself into this mess, I’m so angry at myself.” Dear bankruptcy filer…despite feeling overwhelmed at this point, all is not lost. Remind them that, and emphasize that they should never regret anything they once did, because it felt right at the time. Concentrating on their regrets and being angry with themselves is only wasted energy, and they need to be made aware of this. It is time to look forward and think about the changes they want to make, going forward.

Step 5: Sadness“I’ve never felt so low; this is really bringing me down.” It can be tempting for clients to partake in a moment of self-pity after being bitten by the bankruptcy bug; and it is up to you to help pull them out of it. Remind them of the importance of taking care of themselves, and to not let their emotions take over at this point.

Step 6: Relief“It’s over. I did it. Thank goodness.” Prepare for tears of relief, and congratulate them on their strength. Perhaps recommend they send a letter to their former self – such a method of self-recognition is great for stress relief, and is a reminder of how strong they proved themselves to be, in proactively trying to right their financial wrongs during such a difficult time. And as the whole process is over, perhaps offer them some advice on budgeting and how to repair and rebuild after filing.

Of course, taking individual differences into account, there will be many cases where your clients experience these emotions in different orders, often repeatedly and for varying durations of time. But so long as you are equipped with the knowledge of the how’s and why’s when dealing with them, you are still giving yourself the best possible chance to succeed. Remember our blog post on the superheroes of bankruptcy? That’s you! You can further enhance your superhuman powers by giving your clients a head-start in the race against bankruptcy – refer them to an EOUST-approved provider of Credit Counseling and Debtor Education, to enable them to get on the right path to discharging their debts.

That way, they can get through their financial distress with minimal upset – and you can hang your bankruptcy attorney superhero cape up at night with satisfaction, knowing you did the best job you possibly could in helping your clients through an incredibly trying time in their lives.

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Bankruptcy Filers: What is your secret? What makes you human?

fresh-financial-start-bankruptcyThe other night as I was engrossed in a murder mystery series on television, I found myself struggling to keep up with the twists and turns as the plot developed. Each and every character had so many secrets; ones you would never had known existed had they not fallen to their knees and confessed to them in the final scene.

It made me think of the board game Clue. Did you ever play it? Entertainment based on the same principle, it is a murder mystery game designed to sharpen your detective skills by identifying the scene of the murder, the weapon used and the murderer themselves. Hours of fun could be had with this game, as you would tactically choose different strategies to either withhold or provide information to the other players in the game, determining the likelihood of anyone solving the crime.

This got me thinking. What information have you shared with those around you, and what do you withhold?Maintaining that element of mysteriousness and privacy is a human survival instinct – we are protecting ourselves. Secrets – we all seem to have them, hidden behind the smiling exterior we want everybody else to see and believe… such is the complexity of human nature.

I tried to apply this to my own situation, and thought about what information I withhold from those around me. To the frustration of those closest to me, I am very private by nature and much more of a listener than a talker. For example: despite my young age, I have moved abroad twice, most recently to America. And I can honestly say it has been the hardest thing I have ever done. I kept this a secret from my nearest and dearest, but adjusting and integrating into a completely different culture, coupled with the financial stresses of such a move, really took its toll on me. I often wondered if I made the right choice, and so eventually decided to share my burden with my family. I wanted to turn this around, and focus on the positives. They helped me see that despite everything, the move strengthened me. It showed me new experiences, new cultures, new people…a way of life that was new and interesting to me. I learned from it. As they said, this was a great opportunity for me – regardless if it turned out to be the wrong one – and that nothing is permanent. If you don’t like something, change it. It was my chance to start fresh, somewhere new. Similar to those struggling financially, I was offered a clean slate to build a life again.

So perhaps this was a little longwinded in getting the message across, but I just want to convey that no matter how bleak things may seem, you too can start fresh and learn from your experiences, as I did through mine. Your struggles are not permanent. If you don’t like your financial situation, you can take the necessary steps to change it. You can take the required Credit Counseling and Debtor Education, to get you on your way to having your debts discharged. You can also learn about budgeting, and research financial rebuilding tools to help get you on your feet afterwards. And in the meantime, try sharing your financial worries with those closest to you…as mentioned several times on this blog, a problem shared is a problem halved.

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A Cartoon Bankruptcy?

bankruptcy-cartoonJust because animated characters are confined to the limitations of the television screen, it doesn’t make their presence any less real. As one of the hundreds of millions of avid television viewers becoming interested – and then consequentially hooked – on the cartoons gracing our screens on a daily basis, I can honestly say I find a lot of the characters around today very relatable.

Take Homer Simpson. He is far from the brightest crayon in the box, but his core values remain constant. His heart is in the right place. Similar to that of Peter Griffin from Family Guy, his focus is on protecting his nearest and dearest, despite actually being the person putting them in situations of torment through his acts of buffoonery (anyone remember the time he barricaded his family in a bedroom upon believing Lisa’s dream about the boogeyman was real…?) Yet, we love him anyway.

And how about Felix the Cat? Developed in the silent era, this character successfully made the infamously difficult transition to sound, following the birth of Mickey Mouse in 1936. He was even selected to be the mascot for Strike Fighter Squadron 31. So why was he so popular? A playful little cat, he brought joy to audiences by embedding important values throughout his childish play. “A champion never lets anything stand in his way,” he would say while getting up to his countless acts of mischief.

So what is standing in your way? You find yourself sinking financially, considering the need to file for bankruptcy…what is stopping you?

Perhaps it is fear of the unknown? Many cartoon characters display acts of remarkable strength, both physically and mentally.  Admitting you are struggling financially is not a weakness. It is a strength! And in taking that first step, you are one step closer to that ‘unknown’ – a brighter financial future. Nothing scary about that! Do what is best for you, even when it seems that the world is against you. Like the cute but deadly Powerpuff Girls say in the face of adversity, “We fight crime. That’s what we do! Duh.”

Maybe it is the stigma attached to bankruptcy that is causing you concern? “What are people going to think of me if I file?”Well. The value of true friendship is that no matter what, you have a solid support network. No financial struggle is going to cost you that friendship, and your foundations are so secure that their opinions of you will not change. The tales of Winnie the Pooh were littered with this sentiment. “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard,” he would say of his enviable friendships in the Hundred Acre Wood. When Winnie said he wasn’t feeling himself, Piglet said, “There there. I’ll bring you tea and honey until you do.” No matter what you are going through, your true friends will be there for you, by your side. “I wonder what Piglet is doing,” thought Pooh. “I wish I were there to be doing it, too.” Do you have your own Piglet? Tell them your struggles. A burden shared is a burden halved.

The messages embedded within cartoon storytelling stretch far and wide. Take Snow White. She was such a lovable Disney character. Coming from humble beginnings, she proves that you too can have your happy ending, and that your present situation – whether it be financial or otherwise – is not permanent. Just be true to yourself, and you can determine your own future. Don’t want to be struggling financially anymore, and up to your knees in debt? Then you can change it! Start looking for EOUST-approved providers of Credit Counseling to get on the path to discharging your debts and living a happier, more careful life – leaving you more time to enjoy the simpler things, such as singing to woodland creatures and cleaning up after your seven messy house-mates. Hi-ho!

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