Considering bankruptcy? Use the 'divide by 60' test
It's a rule of thumb to see whether you should file
By Todd Ossenfort
The Credit Guy
The Credit Guy, Todd Ossenfort, is a credit expert and answers readers' questions about credit, counseling and debt issues.
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Dear Credit Guy,
trying to work with a credit person to help you get out of debt a good thing or
is just filing for bankruptcy the best action to take when you are in over your
head? -- Garry
bankruptcy when you have other alternatives available that would work for you
is like having major surgery to remove a splinter from your finger that could
easily have been removed with tweezers. Taking on the risks, costs and long-term effects of bankruptcy or surgery when not needed don't make sense.
bankruptcy is a viable and recommended strategy for those persons with debt
loads and incomes that don't match up or who, in other words, could never repay
what is owed within a reasonable amount of time. To determine whether or not
you would be a candidate for bankruptcy, do some simple math.
the balance of the unsecured debt (credit card accounts, medical
bills, personal loans, etc.) that you owe and divide by 60. If the amount that
you get is more that you could comfortably pay on a bare bones budget, then you
may be a candidate for bankruptcy. For example, if you owe $25,000 in unsecured
debt, you would need to be able to comfortably pay approximately $420 per month
in order to avoid bankruptcy.
I say comfortably pay that means you would be able to pay your housing and
reasonable transportation costs (you might have to get by with one vehicle for
awhile) along with utilities, insurance and food (eating in and clipping
coupons) and your unsecured debt payment with perhaps $25 a week or so to put
aside in a savings account. Comfortably is a relative term here. A better way
to get my point across may be with the following example.
down all your monthly expenses minus your unsecured debt. Trim any unnecessary
expenses such as meals out, entertainment expenses, anything other than
required clothing, you get the idea. Once you have that monthly figure, then
add your unsecured debt figure once you have divided it by 60. If you have
enough income to cover all those monthly expenses, then you would most likely
be better served paying off your debt rather than filing bankruptcy.
in mind that to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy where your debts are satisfied
with the sale of your nonexempt property after the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention
and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, the income requirements are now no more
than the median income for your state to qualify without a means test. If you
do not pass the means test, your case will be converted to a Chapter 13 where
at least of portion of the debt is repaid or the case is dismissed.
All persons seeking bankruptcy protection
must seek pre-bankruptcy credit counseling from a U.S. Department of Justice-approved agency to obtain a certificate that is necessary to file. If you
believe you may need bankruptcy protection, contact an approved agency in your
area and make an appointment. Your counselor will make recommendations based on
your specific financial situation.
Take care of your credit!
See related: Credit card glossary terms to know for bankruptcy, What to expect when filing for bankruptcy, 5 post-bankruptcy myths, Bankruptcy does offer a fresh start, at a high cost
Todd Ossenfort is the chief operating officer for Pioneer Credit Counseling in Rapid City, S.D. Pioneer Credit Counseling has been a member of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies since 1997.
The Credit Guy answers a question about a debt or credit issue from a CreditCards.com reader each week.
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Published: July 27, 2009