Many years ago I read an article in the Los Angeles Times that cited a statistic to the effect that nearly all people who filed Bankruptcy, regretted it. Something like 90 percent. I am not sure how that figure was obtained. If you ask someone who filed if he/she felt bad about it, the human side of it would result in the answer ‘yes.’ Still, in my experience, I think that figure is accurate. At least in the clients I have come to know over the years.
No two cases are ever the same. There are of course things shared in common that cause Bankruptcy: divorce, unemployment and illness on the consumer side of things. With businesses filing Bankruptcy, management mistakes, competition, shifting market trends, and larger economic forces beyond the small business owner’s control are often the cause. Interesting to me is the fact that age is a factor. We grow weary, lose our edge, maybe become a little careless. And we make mistakes all the way to the end.
During a second consultation yesterday with a client filing Bankruptcy in Bakersfield, she apologized for crying the first time we met. I had forgotten. Reaching behind me for the box of Kleenex and handing it to the client is such a habit, it’s like tucking your shirt in or scratching an itch. You don’t remember.
I do remember years back a client who was the owner of a well-known business in Bakersfield that was failing. We met many times over the course of a year trying to figure out options to save the store. This man was good at what he did. He was meticulous with business details. He was, at all times, calm, cool and collected, despite being under enormous pressure. Finally, what was inevitable was the fact that he had to close and file Chapter 7. At the moment the reality of it hit him, this very accomplished gentleman who had held it together for so long, became unhinged and sobbed uncontrollably. I was surprised at his intensity. I have never seen a grown man cry, like that. But as quick as it started, it was over. Long story short, this man went on to prosper in other endeavors. I admire him very much.
So it is with Bankruptcy. The fresh start is a real thing. Particularly when one is accountable for the reasons he/she arrived here. I really appreciate witnessing the positive changes that often result. People learn to live on less. They become less materialistic. They take up new hobbies. They tend to become more service oriented. Priorities change.
And I truly admire my Chapter 13 clients who take it all the way and complete their Chapter 13 plans. It is difficult. They make sacrifices. They are on strict budgets. And they are in Bankruptcy for up to five years. But at the end, like the Chapter 7 Fresh Start, they get a Chapter 13 discharge, and are in better shape, assuming the same qualities that can come from a positive change.