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Can you get out of debt quickly?

The "bad" news first--it is unlikely you can get out of debt in a matter of days or weeks. A report published in 2016 pointed out that the average American household carried a debt load of $137,063, and that is a big mountain to surmount quickly. Even if it is only a relatively small chunk of that debt you want to erase, say, your $16,000 credit card debt, you are usually looking at a long-term haul.

On the other hand, if you give it just a few months, you could erase much of that debt, perhaps even all. That is thanks to bankruptcy.

Is bankruptcy usually the answer?

Depending on your circumstances and goals, bankruptcy could be a great help. It is possible, though, that alternatives could present a better approach. Part of what you would discuss in an initial consultation with a lawyer is the type of debt you carry. If it turns out to be mostly or all dischargeable debt such as medical bills and credit cards, you could be a great candidate for bankruptcy. Debt that is typically not dischargeable includes child support and student loans. Still, freeing up dischargeable debt in bankruptcy could enable you to better handle these other debts.

The big picture

It could be that approaches such as creating a bare-bones budget and sticking to it, negotiating interest rates down, taking on part-time work and/or taking in a renter could resolve your issues nearly as well as bankruptcy might. They might not be realistic for your life situation, though, and in many cases, would take longer than bankruptcy would. Still, there can be merit in exploring these options. One move to approach with caution is a credit card balance transfer. You may have found a card that gives you 0 percent APR for, say, one year, but if you do not think you can pay off the balance in that time frame, this likely is not the offer for you. Your interest rates and monthly payments will go up after the 0 percent period expires, and you could find yourself even more in debt.

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