Many people in today’s economy experience financial distress. Wages remain tight. The cost of living in many cities continues to increase. As consumers find themselves increasingly squeezed, their debt levels increase.

How to Avoid Bankruptcy and Set a Reliable Financial Course

The American Debt Hole

For most Americans, living without any debt just isn’t possible. Most need a car and have to finance it, then afford insurance and gas. Rents and mortgages often take a third or more of household income. Student loans, childcare, utilities, and taxes all take a tremendous bite of the rest. The end result is often ever increasing debt. Over time, budgets break or a loss of income leaves consumers too far behind to catch up. At that point, many people consider bankruptcy. Because bankruptcy negatively affects credit for years, cannot discharge all debts, and requires the surrender of any valuable property, people often search out other options first.

If you are considering bankruptcy, it makes sense to consult with a knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney. The bankruptcy code provides many remedies that can stop disastrous problems like foreclosure and wage garnishment. If you are facing an immediate financial catastrophe, consulting an attorney soon is always a good idea. If experiencing financial distress and wondering what other options are available, here are four methods many people use to avoid bankruptcy and set a reliable financial course.

Negotiate with Your Creditors

When you don’t have enough money to pay all of your creditors, businesses realize that they need to collect as much from you as possible now. Mortgages can often be modified, so if that is the primary problem, your mortgage company is a great place to start. Credit card companies often lower interest rates and payments to help borrowers keep on track.

Credit Counseling

Credit counseling involves hiring a company to negotiate with unsecured creditors on your behalf. The credit counseling company collects a monthly payment from you and distributes it to your creditors. The monthly payment will be substantially less than the required minimums without credit counseling. This options works great for people who have unmanageable debt but want to avoid bankruptcy because they own property or have a debt level that is relatively small.

Restructure Your Life

This option works if you have some flexibility in your life that allows you to trim expenses, according to the National Bankruptcy Forum, if you can change your living location to somewhere cheaper, avoid expenses like eating out, and take a less expensive mode of transportation, it may be possible to pay down debt and avoid bankruptcy.

Sell Property

Selling property, especially if it is costing you too much every month, can often do the trick. For example, selling a boat or some stock could allow you to pay off enough debt to get your budget under control. Do not sell important assets, like your principle residence or 401(K), without getting solid legal advice. You can often protect these assets from creditors, even in bankruptcy.

Taking proactive steps early can prevent the necessity for bankruptcy. Avoiding bankruptcy is desirable for many reasons, including avoiding its impact on your credit and retaining valuable property. Negotiating payment arrangements with creditors and reducing monthly outgo to levels that free up money to pay off debt can turn things around.