Interest rates continue to rise, and individuals and businesses grappling with substantial credit card and unsecured debt find themselves navigating treacherous financial waters. Traditionally, debt consolidation programs have offered an alternative to bankruptcy by combining multiple debts into a single, manageable payment. However, as interest rates reach unprecedented highs, the once-reliable lifeboat of debt consolidation is increasingly becoming a sinking ship. As an experienced bankruptcy attorney, I’m now witnessing a shift in the financial dynamics that make bankruptcy a more viable option for those drowning in debt. Here are a few reasons why bankruptcy continues to gain prominence over debt consolidation loans and non-attorney debt consolidation companies in this challenging economic climate.
1. Interest Rates at All-Time Highs: The cornerstone of debt consolidation lies in securing lower interest rates through the combination of debts. However, in the current economic climate, interest rates have reached record levels, rendering the prospect of obtaining a consolidated loan with a lower rate nearly impossible. On the other hand, bankruptcy provides a legal avenue to discharge or restructure debts, offering a fresh financial start unencumbered by exorbitant interest burdens.
2. Unmanageable Debt Loads: Consolidation loans and programs work best for individuals with low to moderate debt levels. However, people with substantial debt loads often find consolidation loans insufficient to alleviate their financial strain. With its ability to discharge or reorganize debts, bankruptcy provides a comprehensive solution for individuals facing overwhelming financial obligations. Bankruptcy discharges credit cards, medical bills, and most forms of unsecured debt.
3. Rigorous Eligibility Criteria for Consolidation: As interest rates rise, lenders tighten their eligibility criteria for debt consolidation loans. Individuals with less-than-stellar credit histories may find it increasingly difficult to qualify for these programs. Bankruptcy, while certainly not without its consequences, offers a more inclusive solution for those facing financial distress, irrespective of their credit standing. Moreover, sometimes lenders who are willing to lend to individuals with substantial debt often have less than stellar reputations, which might make a difficult situation even worse.
4. Protection from Creditors: Filing for bankruptcy triggers an automatic stay, providing immediate relief from creditor harassment, wage garnishments, and legal actions. In contrast, debt consolidation does not offer any legal protection, leaving individuals vulnerable to aggressive collection efforts by creditors.
5. A Holistic Debt Resolution: While debt consolidation focuses on reducing payments, bankruptcy addresses the root of the problem by discharging eligible debts or reorganizing them through a court-approved plan. This holistic approach ensures a more comprehensive resolution, sparing individuals from a prolonged cycle of debt repayment.
6. Debt Consolidation Companies and Lenders Lack Specialized Knowledge. Non-attorney debt consolidation companies often lack the specialized legal knowledge required to handle complex financial matters. For instance, if you consolidate debt with your spouse, you could be giving up protection for your assets under Pennsylvania’s Tenancy By the Entirety Exemption. They will also not give you advice or defend you in court when you are sued. The absence of professional oversight raises concerns about the accuracy and efficacy of debt consolidation plans.
Brent C. Diefenderfer
Shareholder | Attorney
Brent C. Diefenderfer is a bankruptcy attorney representing clients throughout central Pennsylvania including York, Lancaster, Harrisburg and Gettysburg. Brent is certified as a Consumer Bankruptcy Specialist by the American Board of Certification and is one of only 25 attorneys in Pennsylvania to hold this designation.
Brent advises clients on implementing debt reduction strategies that are appropriate to their unique situation, including bankruptcy under Chapter 7, Chapter 13 or Chapter 11, creditor’s rights and non-bankruptcy debt reduction strategies.
Read Brent’s Bio Page in full HERE.