Evaluate Your Financial Picture Before Talking to a Bankruptcy Lawyer

Bankruptcy is usually one of the last steps a consumer will take when his or her financial situation has hit a critical stage. Along with considering bankruptcy, a debtor also may want to think about making some financial changes.

In a survey conducted by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, researchers found that a majority of consumers felt frustrated at having to practice unending frugality because of job loss or underemployment. Also contributing to the frustration are the increasing costs of medical supplies and services, food and gasoline, and stagnant wages. About 20 percent of those surveyed, however, said that changes in their lifestyle have led them to live a satisfactory life within their means.

If a consumer wants to start saving money, then changes are necessary - changes are attainable in many cases. The first steps are to stop increasing debt, to reduce credit card debt and to minimize major expenses.

Owning a home is a major expense, with taxes, maintenance costs and insurance on top of a mortgage. Some financial advisors suggest selling a home if it is salable and renting an apartment to get rid of unnecessary expenditures.

Getting rid of high-interest credit card debt is essential. All credit card debt should be consolidated into one low-interest card, whether it is a temporary promotional rate or not. An alternative is to concentrate on paying off one card at a time while paying the minimum on the other cards.

Consumers are encouraged to use savings to pay off credit card debt or to consider borrowing against their 401(k) plans, but only if their jobs are safe. These loans must be repaid within about five years. Otherwise, they are considered withdrawals, and income taxes will be levied on them, as well as a 10-percent penalty if the consumer is not at least 59½ years old. However, borrowing against a 401(k) should only be done as a last resort, when all other options have been exhausted.

There are a number of debt relief options available, including bankruptcy. If you are faced with a difficult financial situation, it is important to investigate all of your debt relief options. Speak with an experienced bankruptcy attorney to see if the benefits of bankruptcy are right for you and your situation.