New Year, Fresh Start

As a bankruptcy attorney, this is my busiest time of the year. I file more cases at the beginning of the year than any other time. Having passed the holidays, many people turn their minds to more practical matters, including their finances. Also, with tax refunds becoming available, many clients will have some money available to complete the process. It all adds up to a busy time.

New Year's is a time for fresh starts. Many people use New Years resolutions as a way to set change in motion. It is not a bad idea. Starting at the beginning of the year sets an easy frame of reference for determining how that change is progressing throughout the year. The same goes for fixing your financial situation. Taking stock of your situation in January allows you to track your progress as the year goes on.

If you are facing tight finances, it is worth sitting down and determining what you can fix on your own, and what will require help from an outside party. Start by making out a realistic budget. Calculate your monthly income after taxes, and deduct all of your normal necessary payments, such as rent/mortgage, car payments, utilities, food, household expenses, etc. Next list all of your discretionary spending (things you can live without) such as cable, travel, entertaining, and the like. Finally, try to determine how much you would need to pay down your outstanding debt and not just make minimum payments.

Is there enough money left over to do so? If you can cut back discretionary spending, or if your necessary spending is set to drop, and the extra money allows you to pay down your debts (and not just minimum payments) with tighter budgeting, you don't need to file bankruptcy. If your income is set to increase, you may also be able to avoid filing. Try to set goals for every month for how much you want to save and pay down your debt, and track your process through the year.

However, if you cannot meet your debt payments even with strict budgeting, you may want to consider the fresh start of bankruptcy. This may not initially be what you imagine yourself wanting to do. But, it is a process written directly into the original US Constitution intended by the Founding Fathers to offer relief to people facing burdens they cannot fix on their own. It is not a personal failure (even Abraham Lincoln filed on business debts), but a form of relief when the circumstances of life make it impossible to meet every burden. In addition, Chapter 13 may allow you to repay some or all of your debts. Either way, you will keep your property and finally be able to move on with your life anew.

Contact us to set up a free consultation. It is my job, and specialty, to review the private finances of my clients and determine the best path forward. Sometimes that involves bankruptcy, sometimes it does not. This post is a simplified version of what I do. I will look at the whole picture, your income, expenses, debts, and assets. With over a decade's worth of experience, I have a pretty good sense if there is a way around bankruptcy, or if it makes the most sense.

You don't need to let the stress and strain of your financial difficulties extend into the new year. New Year's is a time for fresh starts... don't deny yourself the relief!