Bankruptcy Bill – Bad for Women?

Here’s an article in the Seattle Times that says the legislation working its way through Congress will have a more profound (and negative) effect on women than on men.

Women already outnumber men when it comes to filing for bankruptcy. 54% of bankruptcy filers are women, and 46% are men. And women with children are most vulnerable.

“They’re spending more on the basics,” [says Elizabeth Warren, a professor at Harvard Law School and co-author of All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan.] “so they have less flexibility in their budgets if something goes wrong. Single women early in their career tend to have lower income and higher expenses. That puts them at risk. Older women often have much less built up in retirement funds and are counting on home and cash assets that won’t be protected in bankruptcy.”

The stated aim of the bankruptcy overhaul is to protect banks who issue credit from debtors who run up credit and then blithely walk away from their obligations. The article quotes a bankruptcy trustee as dispelling that myth.

Contrary to stereotypes, the majority of those who declare bankruptcy are not spendthrifts who abuse credit cards.

Howard Ehrenberg, an attorney in Los Angeles who serves as a Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee, sees more than 100 debtors a month who have filed for bankruptcy.

“They have not run up their bills with no intention of paying them,” he says. “Most people file bankruptcy because one of three calamities has hit them — a serious illness to themselves or a person who makes the money in the household, the loss of a job, or a divorce.”

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