Ah yes, the 800-pound gorilla that you would have to take on rebuilding your credit. Fortunately for you, filing for bankruptcy does not have quite the same social and financial stigma it once did ten, maybe twenty years ago. ‘The purpose of filing is a safety valve,” says Roger M. Whelan, resident scholar of the American Bankruptcy Institute, a nonprofit professional organization. ‘Thank God, the day in which it was like wearing a blazing star on your forehead is over.’
But rebuilding your credit is the double-edged sword of post-bankrupcy life. You have gotten to where you are now because you mismanaged your credit. However, this does not mean that you would have to steer clear from credit from now on. At first, you may have to, because you are given little choice on the matter. But sooner or later, you find that you have to get credit to rebuild your financial life.
So what are the rules? There are no rules; that’s the best part about it. It does not matter how you do it or how fast. The factors can vary widely from the kind of resources you have and the type of bankruptcy you filed for. For instance, if you filed under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy will stay in your credit for five to seven years. Whereas, if you filed under Chapter 7, the bankruptcy could stay longer in your credit report say, up to ten years. During that period, it is going to be very, very difficult for you to get credit, let alone work on rebuilding yours from bad to good. And yet, rebuild you must, if you want to get back in the financial game.
Now, if you have a high dollar income, then obviously you are going to have a slightly better edge over the rest. But just slightly. If you managed to hang onto your house, paying your mortgage on time will improve your credit report. But remember that ‘many apartments don’t report to credit bureaus, so those payments will keep a roof over your head but won’t help you rebuild your credit,’ warns John Ulzheimer, business development manager for MyFico.com, a division of Fair Isaac Corp., the company that developed credit scoring.
Ironically enough, while Chapter 7 filers usually have a hard time getting approved for new credit, they are also usually the ones that have a better chance at rebuilding their credit. Henry Sommer, an attorney and author of ‘Consumer Bankruptcy: The Complete Guide to Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Personal Bankrupcy’ says that ‘while you’re in a Chapter 13 (reorganization), your options are somewhat limited in terms of credit.’ That’s because you cannot really apply for new credit without getting the court’s permission first.
On the other hand, under a Chapter 7, you are given more freedom in that area since all your debts are discharged. The sooner your debts are discharged, the sooner you can get to working on repairing your credit.
Bankruptcy Tips #2: Adopt a Positive Attitude and Show What You have Learned
Experts on bankruptcy insist that attitude and persistence can make a difference on your life after filing for a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. ‘The consumer who’s going to recover faster is the consumer who jumps back in,’ says Ulzheimer. ‘Financial capacity is one thing,’ says Tahira K. Hira, a professor at Iowa State University who specializes in consumer economics and family finance. ‘Mental or attitudinal capacity is the other thing.’
So being positive can make a whole world of difference. ‘…If you build a savings account, carry no debts and have an emergency fund, you’re saying, ‘Look, I can control my behavior,’ Hira adds. ‘It depends on how good a salesperson you are and how good your behavior has been.’ And, of course, by behavior, she means your financial behavior or how you carry yourself around expenses and financial obligations. ‘Pay your bills on time’ is the name of the game. It is also incidentally the easiest way to show to your lenders that you have learned from your past financial mistake and are making every effort never to fall into that trap again. In short, you’ve got to be a model citizen in terms of financial management. Can you handle it? Of course, you can! And the only rule to follow is this: Shop for lenders.
‘There will be a price attached,’ warns Hira, ‘which is higher interest.’ This gives you all the more reason to be discriminating when choosing lenders. Don’t just jump at the first credit opportunity thrown your way only to find that the interests are punishing. Don’t get hard-balled into paying for high interest rates when you can get virtually the same loan for lower interest. Compare lenders. You are the consumer and you still have the advantage of choice.