For far too many middle-class Americans, personal debt is a shameful secret that they carry with them every day. Their indebtedness covertly impacts many of their decisions, their interactions with others and even their concepts of self-worth.
It is easy to understand how this happens - nearly everyone experiences circumstances and unexpected expenses for which they did not plan. Beyond these isolated events, there are also little ways that debt builds up slowly before becoming uncontrollable once interest and/or penalties begins to accrue.
Truthfully, most Americans are carrying some form of debt or another, whether it's a mortgage, medical debt, student loans or simply credit card debt. If you are feeling like your debt makes you foolish and alone, it is time to set those feelings aside.
You are not alone, and you are not out of options.
Take stock of your debt burden and income now
For many people, while they have a constant awareness of their lingering debt, they do not actually know the extent of their debts. Although it may be emotionally difficult, sit down and get all of your debts in front of you. Write them down, from largest to smallest, to get a real understanding of exactly how much you owe to every creditor.
Once you know exactly how much you owe, you can start tackling your debt.
It is possible that your debt feels enormous, but once you have it in front of you, you may realize that it is actually a manageable burden. There may be ways that you can make room in your budget to pay off the debt, or at least a large portion of it, if you're willing to get creative.
Many middle-class Americans have more money than they realize, simply because they are not budgeting what income they have. In many cases, committing to a budget and working it over a period of months or years is sufficient to pay off even significant debts.
It's also possible that you are in a situation that cannot be solved by pinching pennies and selling a few household items. If this is the case, then a bankruptcy procedure can offer you the freedom you need to start over.
The right guidance can inform you of your bankruptcy options
Bankruptcy is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and not all bankruptcies are the same. Some forms of bankruptcy allow you to keep many kinds of assets that meet certain standards for exemptions, while others strip you of more, but leave you with a more complete discharge.
If you are considering a bankruptcy, it is wise to enlist the guidance of an experienced attorney who can help you navigate this complicated legal procedure and emerge truly free to pursue a new season of life with a fresh start.
With the right help on your side, there is always a way to turn the ship around and chart a new course towards freedom and dignity.