The tag line for TV’s Style Network, “Where ‘before’ meets ‘after’” might have been conceived for my Indiana bankruptcy law practice. In the “before” phase, I’m helping clients organize all their statements showing their income and detailing each of their debts in preparation for filing bankruptcy. But, even at that stage, we’re already getting a start on the “after”. What I’ve found is that individuals who are overwhelmed with debt actually need to regain their health in two ways, financially and emotionally.
I make a habit of reading professional journals in the fields of employee benefits and financial planning, because learning from colleagues in these related professions helps me provide the best professional advice to bankruptcy clients. A study run by First Command Financial Services found that short-term debt such as credit card debt most affects people’s feelings of insecurity. Catherine Guthrie, writing in Experience Life Magazine, calls this the “debt effect“, noting that, of all the stressors in our lives – work, relationships, lack of free time – “angst over money and debt may be one of the most corrosive.”
During the initial phase of my work with clients, whose most often-expressed sentiment is “I never thought I’d be here!” it’s important for me to keep reminding them “You’re not alone.” While it’s obvious that, for individuals who are consulting an attorney in my field of bankruptcy law, this is hardly one of the high points in their lives, and, in fact, many clients are near-exhausted from the stress they’ve been experiencing. Again, I need to remind them “Help is here!” The clients must turn their focus away from the past and towards the fresh start they’ll be making through the bankruptcy process.
Sales trainer Tim Roberts, in his Sales & Sales Management Gems Newsletter, quotes a management coach who said “All management problems boil down to two things: a tendency to blame, and an inability to confront.” Too many of my Indiana bankruptcy clients, before finally arriving at the decision to seek professional help, resorted to blaming others – their partners, their spouses, the government, the economy, while at the same time postponing confronting their problems head on and taking some difficult but constructive steps to remedy their problems.
To lower your debt stress, Guthrie recommends three ways to “reframe the way you think about what you owe”:
Find at least one person you can be honest with about your debt. “Saying it out loud can help break the shame cycle.”
Choose your media influences carefully. Don’t watch or listen to shows that show luxury living you can’t afford.
Start saving, even before you’ve paid off all your bills. You need to experience the feeling of abundance, of your work being rewarded.
Bankruptcy is designed to give people a new start in life. For clients who use the relief provided by the bankruptcy system to create a new way of managing their money and their moods, creating a healthier lifestyle for themselves, filing bankruptcy can be the beginning of a true financial and emotional health success story.