Filing for bankruptcy is complex, but it can be the best choice for your financial future. Although it will stay on your credit report for seven to 10 years, bankruptcy will eliminate your old debt and give you a fresh start. This will help you qualify for a mortgage or other credit in the long term.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of life after bankruptcy. Depending on your circumstances, you may face several challenges – from cash flow management to establishing good credit and rebuilding your financial profile. However, it is possible to recover financially from bankruptcy and give yourself a fresh start.
Keep all bankruptcy paperwork
It is essential to keep all paperwork from your bankruptcy case, even though it may not seem like a crucial step. You may be required to provide copies of the bankruptcy files at some point, for example, when applying for a mortgage or loan. Therefore, it is best to be prepared and have them on hand.
“It’s always a good idea to keep your bankruptcy paperwork handy, just in case a lender or debt collector contacts you about any of the debts included in your filing,” says Leslie Tayne, founder of Tayne Law Group. “That way, you’ll have proof that the debt was discharged in bankruptcy.”
The paperwork you should keep includes the following:
- Bankruptcy petition and schedules
- Proof of income that was included with your petition
- Social Security proof of income included with the petition
- Correspondence from the bankruptcy court, your attorney, and the bankruptcy trustee
- Final bankruptcy discharge
Save money now
The last thing you want is to find yourself in the same financial situation as before. To help prevent this, establish good money habits, including saving regularly and having an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses. By taking these steps, you can help ensure a bright financial future.
Tayne emphasizes the importance of saving money and creating healthy financial habits as part of rebuilding. Prevention is critical, and by saving money now, you can set yourself up for success in the future.
To save money effectively, turn saving money into a habit. You can do this by setting up regular, automated transfers to a savings account. This way, you’ll always have some money set aside for emergencies or future opportunities.
According to Sean Fox, president of Freedom Debt Relief, you should deposit a certain percentage of every check or payment into a savings account. The amount you save should be 10 percent or more of your paycheck. Still, it should be an amount that you can comfortably and consistently make deposits into.
Many employers offer to have a portion of your paycheck deposited into a separate account from your primary checking account. Additionally, many banks and credit unions allow you to set up recurring automatic transfers from your checking account into a savings account.
Prepare a budget
One of the best things you can do for your financial health is to create and stick to a budget. Many people see budgeting as restrictive, but it’s just a way to take control of your spending and save for future goals. Having a budget helps you understand your spending habits and keep them in check.
To create a budget, you must calculate how much you earn each month. This will help determine how much you can spend and save monthly. Your income should come from reliable and recurring sources.
After that, you’ll want to:
- Track your spending for one to two months: It’s essential to keep tabs on your spending to budget effectively for different areas of your life.
- Identify your financial priorities: Every month, note where you spend your money and see which categories you spend more on than you’d like. You may also find that you’re not allocating enough money for other essential aspects of your life. To fix this, try cutting back on unnecessary spending to fit your new budget.
- Create your budget: It’s time to start itemizing the monthly expenses you’ll need money for. This list should include all debts and bills that come up regularly, such as utilities and groceries, as well as funds for entertainment and savings. By allocating money for these various purposes each month, you’ll be better prepared to manage your finances.
Many people find that the 50/30/20 budgeting rule is a helpful way to create a budget. This rule suggests allocating 50% of your income towards your essential expenses, 30% towards non-essential but desirable costs, and 20% towards savings.
There are many ways to create and maintain a budget, including using apps, spreadsheets, or even a piece of paper. According to Fox, it is essential to find a system that works for you and stick with it.
Get your credit back on track
After bankruptcy, it is crucial to improve your credit score. This will help you on the road to financial recovery. There are a few different ways to try this, depending on what type of bankruptcy you filed.
- Make sure your bills are paid on time: The best way to improve your credit score is by paying your accounts on time. This shows that you are responsible and can be trusted with money. Payment history makes up 35 percent of your overall FICO credit score, so it is essential to focus on making timely payments.
- Get a secured credit card: Once you’ve filed for bankruptcy, one of the ways to start reestablishing your credit is by getting a secured credit card. With a secured credit card, you open a savings account that acts as collateral for the credit card. This way, the credit card issuer can see that you can make on-time payments. On-time payments will help improve your credit profile. Eventually, after making on-time payments for an extended period, the credit issuer may upgrade you to a traditional credit card.
- Report utility bill payments: On-time monthly payments for utilities, such as electricity or phone bills, can help improve your credit history. Check with your utility companies to see whether they offer programs that report payments to credit bureaus. Another option is using Experian Boost, which lets customers add certain utility and phone bills to their Experian credit reports to help boost their credit score.
- Loans for credit building: Loans of this type require the borrower to deposit money into an account. The lender holds onto this money while the borrower repays the loan’s principal and interest. Each payment the borrower makes is reported to credit agencies.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how long bankruptcy stays on your credit report, as it depends on the type of bankruptcy filed. However, Chapter 7 bankruptcies will generally remain on your credit report for ten years.
During that time, you can take measures to rebuild your credit score, such as opening up secured credit cards and making timely payments for utility bills. Additionally, using Experian Boost can help ensure that those payments are being reported to credit agencies.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows you to restructure your debt and repay some creditors over three to five years. This can provide much-needed relief from financial stress and let you to get back on your feet.
Once the repayment period ends, most of the remaining debt is forgiven, and you are no longer responsible for making any more payments. However, bankruptcy will still be visible on your credit report for seven years and could lower your score by up to 200 points.
Monitor your credit reports regularly
Although it may be daunting, checking your credit report regularly after filing for bankruptcy is essential. This will help you catch any errors that may lower your credit score. Additionally, monitoring your credit report closely can help you identify any fraudulent activity.
Tayne warns that debt not appearing accurately on credit reports can count against you and be a form of outstanding debt. Worse still, the debt could be transferred to a new collection agency which would be harder to resolve.
It would help if you took action immediately when you find an error on your credit report. This means contacting the credit bureau and the company that reported the inaccurate information.
In your correspondence, include the credit bureau’s dispute form and any supporting documentation you may have. Keep copies of everything you send for your records.
The credit bureaus have 30 days to investigate your claim after you file a dispute.
They will notify you in writing of the results of any disputes. They will provide a free copy of your credit report if the information reported is inaccurate. Businesses must correct the information with the credit bureaus so that their records are up-to-date.
Monitoring your credit report is essential to maintaining a good credit score. You can get a free copy of your information from each credit bureau once a year or use free online tools to monitor your credit score. Bankrate is a good option for scanning your credit score, and you can also set up fraud alerts through your banks.
Keep your job and your home in order
Maintaining your job and home is an essential part of life after bankruptcy and rebuilding your financial profile and reliability. You want to show lenders that you can pay back debts such as your mortgage and maintain a reliable, steady income through a job.
Lenders reviewing loan applications often consider an applicant’s employment history. A consistent income source can improve your chances of approval. At the same time, job hopping or gaps in employment may make you appear to be a higher risk.
Invest in an emergency fund
It’s always a good idea to have an emergency fund in case you lose your job or have any other unexpected financial needs. These savings can help you avoid getting into debt, which can be a disaster. You should start saving for an emergency fund as soon as possible, even if you can only contribute a little bit.
The important thing is to make regular deposits and establish the habit of saving. Over time, your deposits will add up, and you’ll be glad you have the emergency fund when needed.
When saving your emergency fund, you have a few options.
- Instead of opting for the traditional savings account at your local bank, consider an online bank account. Many online banks offer higher interest rates than brick-and-mortar banks. Plus, you’ll have quick and easy access to your funds.
- Different banks offer different interest rates on savings accounts. However, high-yield savings accounts usually have higher interest rates than standard ones. To get the most out of your money, look for banks or credit unions that insure deposits through the FDIC or NCUSIFA.
Emergency funds are vital after filing for bankruptcy because you will have limited access to credit, says Tayne.
One way to ensure you have an emergency fund is to get a second job or a side gig that can generate extra income. Having multiple streams of income will help you weather any financial storms that come your way.
“Finding a part-time job can be challenging, but it’s worth it when you need to save money,” says Fox.
Identify your financial goals
No one-size-fits-all answer is whether it is better to own a home or a car or go back to school after filing for bankruptcy. The best decision for you depends on your circumstances and financial goals.
Creating financial goals is an essential part of maintaining your overall economic well-being. You can achieve your dreams by creating a specific, actionable plan and breaking down significant objectives into smaller, more manageable steps.
Everyone’s financial situation is different, so it’s essential to tailor your goals accordingly. Your short-term goals might include paying off credit card debt or saving up for a down payment on a house. Medium-term goals could be saving for a child’s education or building an emergency fund. And your long-term financial goal might be retirement planning or estate planning.
Making intelligent choices about your finances and being mindful of your cash flow is the best way to secure your financial future. This was the advice given by Tayne, an expert on the topic.
Tayne says that making sound decisions regarding money is the best way to ensure a bright future.
Bankruptcy can be a significant setback, but with dedication and hard work, it is possible to get back on your feet. Budgeting responsibly and rebuilding your credit score takes time and patience. Still, it is worth it to create a better future for yourself.