He sees it every day at work: adults with a bankruptcy in their past needing to re-establish their credit to make a major purchase. He just never dreamed he'd become one of them.
The Wasatch Front man, who asked not to be identified, and his wife last year became statistics, filing for bankruptcy amid their own mortgage crisis, mounting business debt, unforeseen medical bills and credit-card debt racked up to $100,000 as they tried to make do.
"It's embarrassing to file a bankruptcy for us," the man told the Deseret News. But, he says, "from what I can see, it's a path well-worn."
Utah bankruptcy filings in the first six months of this year were up 42 percent compared to the
first six months of 2007, well above the national 30 percent increase recorded in the same time frame, according to a report issued online Thursday by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Utah and the American Bankruptcy Institute.
More than 4,200 Utahns have filed for bankruptcy so far this year. Slightly fewer than 6,300 filed in all of 2007.
The majority of this year's filers are consumers, court clerk David Sime said. Chapters 11 and 12 filings by businesses account for 1 percent of the total so far this year. Chapter 7 accounts for 56 percent; Chapter 13, solely for individuals, is 43 percent.
"The overall trend of rising bankruptcies reflects the growing financial strain ... felt by U.S. households, burdened by high debt, rising mortgage costs and falling home values," institute executive director Samuel J. Gerdano said in releasing the national figures last week. The Wasatch Front man owned a small business in Southern California, where he lived. With that came some business debts, and on top of that, credit-card debt and $25,000 in unforeseen medical bills, despite insurance coverage.
He and his wife wanted to move here for the less-expensive cost of living, but they struggled to sell their Southern California house, which eventually foreclosed.
Once in Utah, his wife had trouble finding steady work, and the job he had paid well but not well enough to cover debts. The couple filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy last year and now has a five-year repayment plan, at $900 a month. They were able to keep their Utah house and a car.
"We don't feel really good about it. But we didn't have any other way to protect our assets," the man said.
Those who file for bankruptcy in Utah must attend financial management courses. There, the couple learned about themselves, past habits and how to adjust them to avoid future financial troubles. That, for them, is the silver lining."For us, it's been a good process," the man said. "Of course, we don't want to make the same mistakes, and hopefully, we never will."