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Get help for debt trouble

By Terry Savage Sun-Times Columnist
I worry about terrorism. And I worry about the economy. But mostly I try to worry about things I can do something about–or at least help others do something about. So today’s headline scares me: “2002 bankruptcy filings set historic record.” Last year, 1,577,651 individuals filed for personal bankruptcy. That topped the previous year’s record of 1,492,129. Yes, I could round off those numbers. But each one counts. Each is the story of a financial life out of control.

Those big numbers mean that one of every 100 families in this country was affected by bankruptcy last year. Chances are you know someone, or work with someone, who is part of those statistics. Or will be.

It’s a myth to think that bankruptcies are caused by the desire to commit fraud. In the largest percentage of cases, bankruptcy is preceded by unexpected budget-breaking expenses of uninsured medical costs or divorce. With no savings reserve, bankruptcy may be the only choice. But too many of the bankruptcy statistics come from people who just don’t understand the dangers of debt and overspending. It’s a course we don’t teach in school, though a credit card is standard issue on college campuses these days.

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