Bankruptcy can offer a life-changing escape and debt relief opportunity to people in California struggling with crushing debt. While the opportunities presented by filing for bankruptcy can be substantial, people are often hesitant to commit to filing. There are a number of reasons why this is the case: Sometimes, people simply want to see if they can avoid taking the additional step of bankruptcy. Other times, people feel a sense of guilt or shame. However, waiting to file bankruptcy can make a person’s debt burden even harder to overcome.

Many experts refer to the period immediately before a bankruptcy filing as the “sweatbox” because the financial stress of that time is so great. Creditor calls and even lawsuits can pile up while people struggle to pay for basic needs like utilities and food. While some people act quickly in the sweatbox period to file for bankruptcy, other people can go through this period for two years or more. Studies show that those who struggle for over two years with these conditions may have significantly worse situations to deal with when they emerge from bankruptcy.

For example, people who go through severe financial crisis for over two years before filing for bankruptcy have, on average, half of the assets of those who file more quickly. They also face a debt-to-income ratio that is over 40 percent worse than those who filed earlier. An additional 15 percent face collection lawsuits or court judgments. These circumstances can make it more difficult to rebuild a person’s financial life later on.

Filing for personal bankruptcy can offer real hope for people facing insurmountable debt whether due to medical bills, credit card debt or personal loans. A bankruptcy lawyer may help people file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy and open a new page on their financial lives.