Updated insider information by Chellie Campbell, author of “The Wealthy Spirit: Daily Affirmations for Financial Stress Reduction”
“If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments.”—Unknown
I know what it’s like to be unable to pay your bills. In fact, things once got so bad for me that I filed bankruptcy.
I had been on top of the world. My bookkeeping service had doubled every year and was now generating approximately $450,000 per year. I had twelve employees and a beautiful new office suite. But I had one major client who accounted for 75 percent of my income, and when they left with a mere two weeks notice, disaster loomed. Since I was absolutely strapped for cash, having been left with many financial obligations and no current means of paying for them, I borrowed $50,000 on credit cards.
Five years later, I had faithfully paid the minimum balances every month, but by then I had the habit of using credit cards whenever cash flow dipped. Compound interest ate me alive. By this time, I owed $80,000. Then my chief bookkeeper quit and decided to go into business for herself. A lot of my clients went with her. My ex-business partners asked when I was going to pay them for the purchase of the company. I tried to sell the condominium I purchased at the top of the real estate market in 1987, but its value had plummeted and I owed approximately $30,000 more than it was worth. It didn’t matter; I couldn’t find a buyer at any price. I could no longer pay my current bills, let alone my debts. The barrage of telephone calls from creditors was non-stop. So were my stress, anxiety, and tears.
A dear friend sent me to a bankruptcy specialist who exclaimed, “The bankruptcy laws were written for people like you!” He showed me that there was a way out, a path to forgiveness of my debts under the law, a new beginning for me after this failure. He pointed out that business involved risk, and that sometimes when you risk, you lose. The average millionaire files bankruptcy 3.5 times, he told me, and I was in some good company, with people such as Walt Disney, Donald Trump, Wayne Newton, Mark Victor Hansen, and R.H. Macy, founder of Macy’s department stores, who filed bankruptcy seven times before he was successful.
I filed. The credit card debt went up in smoke as though it had never been. The tension eked out of my body as I started to relax and breathe again. Of course, my credit was now a black smudge of ashes. But, after all, what did I need credit for? Only to borrow money, and that was what got me in trouble in the first place. I needed to learn to live without borrowing, just as I learned to live without drinking.
If you have ever stood in bankruptcy court and admitted your powerlessness over debt, forgive yourself and learn from the experience. If you have never had to do this, have compassion for those who have.