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Is Bankruptcy Right for You?

Some experts recommend that if you cannot pay back outstanding consumer debt in three to five years, bankruptcy may be the best option for you (of course, that doesn't include long-term loans like mortgages, which are normally repaid in 15-30 years). But bankruptcy isn't an "easy" out--depending on which kind you file, it can make it difficult for you to obtain new credit for up to 10 years, a consequence that must be weighed against the benefit of relief from your debts.

Before you decide whether or not bankruptcy is right for you, you may want to speak with a credit counselor about your situation and what other options there might be. Just keep in mind that most credit counseling agencies are funded by credit card issuers and other lenders, so their leaning is typically away from bankruptcy, even if it may really be the best option for you.

For credit counseling, you may want to enlist the aid of a local branch of the nonprofit National Foundation for Consumer Credit (NFCC). The NFCC offers free or low-cost debt counseling, financial education, budgeting assistance, and other financial services for consumers. To locate an office nearby, you can check the NFCC web site at http://www.nfcc.org or call toll-free 1-800-388-2227 for 24-hour automated office listings.

The NFCC also offers Debt Management Plans that can sometimes lower your payments, fines, or interest. A Debt Management Plan offers a systematic way to pay down outstanding debt. You would deposit your debt repayment funds with the agency each month and the NFCC would disperse the funds to your creditors according to repayment plans it negotiated with them. The NFCC can often negotiate reduced or waived finance charges and fewer collection calls, so you might be able to bring your debt under control more quickly.

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.
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