Save Money / Consumer News

Tips for women to bounce back from bankruptcy

Sunday, November 18, 2012

In 2011, 1.5 million Americans filed for bankruptcy, of which 450,000 were women. This year, it's estimated that number will climb to 1 million women filing for bankruptcy. That's more than the number of women that will graduate from college, be told they have cancer or file for divorce.

New reports show women who are declaring bankruptcy have higher education levels, attended college, are employed and own their own homes. They played by all the rules, but are in an economic free-fall.

That's what happened to Rose Kolla. A divorce several years ago put her in a financial tailspin. The single mother is re-establishing credit after bankruptcy.

"I finally found a financial institution willing to put a little faith in me. I've been with them for a year. I've made every payment on time," Kolla said. "I've become a sole provider. Raising two children, two mortgages, car payments, Catholic school on one income. That's basically impossible."

So, how do you rebuild when your credit is destroyed?

Kim Wisser, a consumer educator with the non-profit Money Management International, tells people to start small when looking to rebuild.

"Retail stores, gas cards are more likely to give you a credit card than the larger cards, like a Visa or MasterCard," she said.

Another option is to apply for a secured credit card. The process requires you to give the bank or credit union a small amount of money. They give you a credit card with a matching limit. Use it monthly and pay the balance in full each month. Never let the balance exceed 10 percent of the limit.

Once you're back on the way to establishing credit, make it your top priority to maintain it. It's important to have a zero balance at the beginning of the month when credit scores are recalculated.

"It takes time to establish it and you can ruin it in a month," Wisser said.

Women - and men as well - can help themselves if they keep their fixed expenses like, rent, car payments and student loans to half of their income.

Most of all, you'll need a little patience. Most lenders look at a two year credit history before saying yes to big financing, like a house or car. Stay optimistic.

"You get over it," Kolla said. "You get over that little hump and it broadens the horizon."

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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