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Bankruptcy Is Not Shameful and Need Not Be Painful

Bankruptcy filers are not alone. Over one million American bankruptcy petitions are filed each year, and the Central District Of California usually leads the nation in filings every year. Many bankruptcies are caused by circumstances truly outside of the debtor's control, such as catastrophic illnesses and injuries, termination from employment, and loss of a lawsuit.

There was a bankruptcy trustee in the Central District Of California who is unfortunately no longer with us who used to begin his meetings of creditors by holding a nickel in the air and asking if anyone could identify the president appearing on its face. The answer is of course Thomas Jefferson. President Jefferson was one of the most colorful figures in American history--not just a president, but an architect, a plantation owner, an inventor, and a statesman. Not many people realize that when President Jefferson passed away, he was in debt to his creditors over $100,000, a sizeable enough figure in today's economy but a staggering sum in the 1820s. And he had financial difficulties throughout most of his adult life. The moral of the trustee's story is that if someone as creative, accomplished, and renowned as Thomas Jefferson could suffer from chronic financial difficulties, it is no great shame if you are suffering the same fate. Rather than dwell on and wallow in one's misfortunes, one should look at bankruptcy as Congress intended--a fresh start. If mistakes were made, learn from them and move forward.