Tuesday, March 15, 2005

When Debt Returns Home

As I mentioned in my previous entry, I discovered that central Oklahoma's bankruptcy-court system allows for online access and research of its documents. A no-cost (as of now) system called RACER provides this data. Via RACER, court documents may be downloaded in PDF format.

Time and again over the last few days, I've found myself repeatedly drawn back to the RACER system. I must say that, given the 15-20 cases I've examined in-depth — at 12 to 30 documents per case, it takes significant time — I have been angered not nearly so much as I have been disheartened.

The cases involving retired persons simply crush me. Fixed-income retirees petitioning for Chapter 7 or 13 relief show up so consistently that I do not doubt Demos.org's assertion that "...seniors are the fastest-growing age group in the bankruptcy courts" [McGhee and Draut, "Retiring in the Red"].

Even more discouraging is the commonness of these seniors' children and grandchildren still being listed as dependents in the court documents. For the retirees whose cases I've examined, Social Security and other government or pension payments provide little more than poverty wages. Yet, for whatever reason, the sons and daughters and grandchildren of these retirees remain direct expenses to their parents, often contributing to monthly grocery and clothing expenses of $400 or more. (Around here, that is quite high.) This is the one linking factor I have found in every single one of the retiree-involved cases I've read. Not that I've read that many, as I said before. But I am selecting case numbers at random, and even with that, this same problem with "economic outpatient care" of offspring has evidenced itself each time.

Because this data is so fascinating to me, and, I think, societally telling, I expect to blog more about it in the coming weeks. I'd also like to throw in a few case studies here and there so others can get a feel for the troubles faced by those in our bankruptcy system.

I might also recommend that others with an interest in this topic research the 'net (Google is a good start) to find out whether their local bankruptcy court provides any data online. Viewing such data isn't always free, I've found; it depends upon the system used for dispersal, and that apparently is entirely up to the whim of each locality's bankruptcy court.


— Posted by Michael @ 11:11 AM

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Thoughts on my personal finances, goals, experiences, motivations, and accomplishments (or lack thereof).

My financial life began turning around when I took responsibility for it.
— Dave Ramsey


Start (2005-12): ~$21,900
Currently: $0
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Savings Goal: $15,000
Currently: ~$15,115
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