Check out this article from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin bankruptcy filings fall for 8th straight year
Bankruptcy filings in Wisconsin continued their post-recession downward trend in 2018.
Federal U.S. Bankruptcy Court data shows there were 16,194 bankruptcy petitions in the state last year. That was a decrease of 3.4 percent from 16,771 in 2017, and a 46 percent drop since 30,000 in 2010. Wisconsin bankruptcy filings now have declined for eight consecutive years.
The crucial factor in the ongoing reduction in bankruptcies: jobs.
Wisconsin’s estimated unemployment rate in December of 2018 was 3 percent. The state’s jobless rate in parts of 2009 and 2010 topped 9 percent.
“People are working and people are more optimistic,” said bankruptcy attorney James Miller, of the Milwaukee firm Miller & Miller Law.
About 70 percent of the bankruptcy petitions in Wisconsin last year were Chapter 7 filings, the type intended to give people a fresh start by wiping out debt such as overwhelming medical bills, utility bills and credit card balances.
Wisconsin’s bankruptcy filings generally tracked with the situation nationally. During 2018, total filings in the U.S. fell to 755,182 from 766,761, or about 1.5 percent, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute.
While a good economy with plenty of jobs is the chief reason for fewer bankruptcies, Miller said the rising cost of filing might also be deterring some people from going to court to get relief from their debts. In the Milwaukee area, he said, the average attorney’s fees for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case are $1,500. That’s on top of a $335 filing fee.
Miller said the main causes of insolvency remain medical bills and credit card debt. High-interest car loans and payday loans also pop up frequently on lists of debt for financially stressed people, he said.
“The reason people file is there’s always some sort of event that happens – it’s a divorce, it’s an accident, it’s a job loss – that really becomes the impetus that makes them need to file,” Miller said. “People’s perception of those who file for bankruptcy is that they’re just being irresponsible and running up credit card debt. It is far from it.”