Bounce back from bankruptcy

The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act requires consumers to complete an approved credit counseling session prior to filing for bankruptcy. After filing, debtors must complete an approved financial education course before they can discharge their debts. These requirements were included to ensure consumers make an informed choice about bankruptcy, its alternatives and consequences. Perhaps more importantly, they were designed to provide bankruptcy filers with the financial skills necessary to build a strong financial foundation and avoid future financial problems.

Filing for bankruptcy protection can impact your credit report and score for up to 10 years. The good news is that no matter how bad things look, you can always bounce back and re-establish a good credit score. Following are some ways to re-build credit after bankruptcy.

Pay yourself first. Unfortunately, bad things sometimes happen to good people. Expect the unexpected and put money away for the rainy days. Having an emergency fund can keep a minor financial setback from turning into a major financial crisis.

Clean up your credit report. It’s important to take the necessary steps to dispute any incorrect information on your credit report. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com for one free annual credit report from each of the three major bureaus.

Get a secured line of credit. Obtaining new credit (with reasonable repayment terms) after a bankruptcy can be difficult. Consider a secured account or a small personal loan with a bank or credit union if traditional lines prove to be too costly.

Use credit wisely. Credit cards are useful, but should only be used as a tool of convenience and not as an extension of your income. Always have a plan for payoff when making purchases with credit cards; ideally less than 90 days.

Pay bills on time.
Create a calendar with due dates and payment amounts. Set up automatic payments with your bank to ensure timely delivery. Also, don’t neglect creditors such as the phone and utility companies. Many people don’t realize these are creditors too.

When trying to reestablish credit, it pays to be persistent and patient. The good news is that scores are continually updated and may move several points each month.

Renee McGruder is a former communications coordinator and grant writer at MMI.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.