How to put bankruptcy behind you and rebuild
Dear Dave: My husband and I have been married for just two years. We built up a lot of debt fast, and weíve already had to file Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Since then heís been working two jobs and 70 hours a week, and Iím working full-time in an accounting office. We want to put this bankruptcy behind us and move on with our lives, but thereís still a lot of bitterness and resentment. How do you rebuild a relationship after bankruptcy? — Kim
Dear Kim: Lots of young married couples have financial problems. Some are minor, while others can knock you for a loop. Whether they result in bankruptcy or not, theyíre still hard on a marriage.
Iím sure you guys love each other, but being so new to marriage you havenít had a lot of experience trusting and respecting each other. Iíd first suggest that you find a good church if youíre not already in one. A spiritual viewpoint on marriage will be a big help if you want to make it over the long haul.
My second suggestion would be marriage counseling. Iím not saying the two of you are in major trouble, but a relationship checkup is a good idea for every couple now and then. I mean, even if your car is running fine you still take it in for a tune up occasionally, right?
Hereís something for you to keep in mind, Kim. Men are task-oriented beings. Itís important that you know your husbandís self-esteem has taken some unbelievable blows. Heís probably not feeling a lot like Sir Galahad right now, and he may even feel downright incompetent. Give him lots of pats on the back and words of encouragement.
On the other hand, ladies are more relationship and security-oriented. He needs to do things to show you he cares and appreciates you. Four or five extra hugs every day wouldnít be a bad idea, and it would probably go a long way toward reassuring you that youíre both in this together and are going to fix things.
If you keep the emotional side of things intact, the financial matters will fall into place. But if youíre constantly scared and at each otherís throats you wonít make it through the tough times.
Keep working hard, and make a commitment to buckle down and pay off your debts as soon as possible. Never borrow money again, keep loving on each other and youíll come out of this in better shape than ever before! — Dave
Handling debt while funding 401(k)
Dear Dave: Iím a single parent with two children. I bring home about $3,500 a month, but I have $14,000 in credit card debt. Our rent is $750 a month, and Iíve been funding my 401(k) at $700 per month. Should I file bankruptcy, stop funding my retirement or what? — Eric
Dear Eric: First of all, youíre not bankrupt. Even if you were out of work right now I wouldnít tell you to file bankruptcy over $14,000.
But Iíve got to ask one question. Even with two children, if you bring home $3,500 a month youíve got a very workable income. What on earth are you doing with your money?
Hereís the plan. Start living on a budget, and give every dollar a name on paper before the month begins. Also, stop putting money in your 401(k) for a while, and concentrate on paying off your debt! Basically, youíre asking me if you should declare bankruptcy to keep funding your retirement. That doesnít make sense. It sounds to me like youíre trying to do too many things at once. If you pause your 401(k) contributions for just a year, you can pay off the entire debt! — Dave