If you're unable to pay your creditors, filing for bankruptcy can help you get a fresh start by liquidating your assets to pay off your debts or create a payment plan. But you should first consider other debt management options. Bankruptcy information stays on a credit report for 10 years and can make it difficult to get credit, buy a home, get life insurance, or sometimes get a job.
For example, when you initiate a debt management plan, you may be asked to close credit card accounts. Doing so changes your credit utilization ratio — the comparison between the total amount of credit you have available versus the amount you're actually using. Closing accounts lowers the amount of credit you have available (your credit limit), which increases your credit utilization rate and negatively impacts your credit score.
Those who are overwhelmed by debt often turn to credit counseling agencies to find help. They offer a variety of services, such as workshops, one-on-one coaching and debt management plans, all with a common objective. "The No. 1 goal is to leave people in a better financial situation," says Julie Kalkowski, executive director of the Financial Hope Collaborative at Creighton University. The Financial Hope Collaborative is a financial education and counseling program for low- to moderate-income families living in Omaha, Nebraska.

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