Filing for bankruptcy comes with relief and anxiety about the future. It’s nice to be free of financial burdens and have a clean slate, but at the same time, you have to start over on your journey to creditworthiness. You’ve probably read that a bankruptcy will remain on your credit report for up to 10 years. This is true, but credit repair and creditworthiness doesn’t have to take 10 years.
A 2018 Lending Tree study found that 65% of people raised their credit score to 640 or higher just two years after filing for bankruptcy. There are a number of ways to rebuild your credit after bankruptcy if you have the right plan.
Get Your Credit Reports in Order
Bankruptcy wipes out and reorganizes debts, but it doesn’t wipe your credit reports clean for you. Your reports will show a Chapter 7 or 10 bankruptcy for 10 years, or Chapter 13 for 7 years. At the same time, you may have inaccurate negative information on reports that can make rebuilding your credit a slower process than it needs to be. If you find mistakes you need to be proactive and dispute the credit report errors and get them corrected. Late payments and debts that go to a collection typically remain on credit reports until seven years after the delinquencies.
Get a Secured Credit Card
One of the biggest steps to restoring your creditworthiness reputation in the eyes of lenders is showing they won’t lose money when working with you. A secured credit card is insured by a deposit you pay, and the credit limit will typically reflect the amount you have on deposit. Secured cards usually have annual fees and can carry high-interest rates, but you should view it as a stepping stone to getting an unsecured card.
Make a Plan to Rebuild Your Finances
After bankruptcy, lenders want to see that you have enough income to pay your current obligations, and still have something left over. The lighter your debt burden, the more attractive you become to lenders. Here are some foundational practices for staying on top of your debt:
- Create a Budget – The pre-discharge credit counseling you went through before finishing your bankruptcy should have given you tips for budgeting. If not, it’s wise to seek help from a credit repair counseling agency.
- Build an Emergency Fund – Having as little as $250 in savings for an unexpected expense can protect families from resorting to high-cost loans or depending on high-interest credit cards.
- Practice Good Credit Habits – Once you’ve rebuilt your score to the point of qualifying for unsecured loans, make sure you always pay on time. Keep your credit card balances low – 10% or less of the total limit is a good benchmark.
Remember What Led You to File for Bankruptcy
Always keep in mind what led you to bankruptcy. For some people, an unexpected loss of a job or medical expense might have been the catalyst. But for many, chronic over-spending is the core issue. Unfortunately, many who find themselves in bankruptcy realize too late they never learned the money management skills needed to stay out of bankruptcy.
A good credit repair company can help you identify what led to your bankruptcy and give you the tools needed to not only expedite your recovery but to help you financially flourish going forward.
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