Things You Should Never Say To Someone Going Through Bankruptcy

Few things in life are as devastating as bankruptcy or serious financial trouble. If your friend or family member is going through it, they are in an emotionally shaky place. What you say to them can make or break your friendship.

Needless to say, a little tact goes a long way. Do your relationship a favor, and don’t make any of these mistakes.

“Told You So.”

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The last thing anyone in this position wants to hear is “I told you so.” Yes, you may have warned them about getting that house. Or that boat. Or that car. However, you don’t know the full scope of what they saw coming up in their future when they made that plan.

No one has the right to judge what another person does with their money. Even if you think you’re in the right, it’s not what they want to hear nor does it do any good. It’ll only alienate you from them.

“Better Job?”

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There is no way to avoid sounding like a pompous jerk by asking them why they didn’t get a better job. If people could get higher wages, they would. The tight job market has reacted by falsely suppressing wages for decades. This is common knowledge.

You can’t always just get a better-paying job. Many people are having a hard time even getting a job interview. Asking why they didn’t get a better job is tone-deaf, to say the least.

“Got Public Assistance?”

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This isn’t a matter of pride, really. Most people assume that people who are going bankrupt will be able to get public assistance. This is not always true. You can earn a ton of money and still be bankrupt. Most social safety nets and charity programs have a maximum income to qualify. This makes people slip through the cracks of society.

The nonprofit world calls these people ALICES, or  Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. They earn more than the local poverty lines or social assistance limits, but not enough to afford a living in their area. It’s a growing problem.


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For some reason, many people tend to “dogpile” on individuals who have financial problems at home. Now is not the time to be a jerk to them. They are not failures for declaring bankruptcy. Life happens, and sometimes, money runs out.

That does not give you the right to call them names, insinuate certain things, or tell them they messed up. It will destroy any relationship you might have had with them.

“No Help From Me!”

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Bankruptcy is one of those few times when your loved one or friend needs help. They are not going to have an easy time finding a place to live or getting a new car. If you are in a position to help them and refuse to do so, you better have a good reason for it.

In most cases, this is a moment where people will remember where you stood with them when the chips were down. Not helping out can destroy your relationship with this individual.

Basic Finance Advice.

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For some reason, people tend to assume that filing for bankruptcy is a good indicator of financial stupidity. Most people know how to stick to a budget and take educated risks. Things happen, and their bankruptcy might not be their fault.

Too many people tend to give basic, unsolicited advice that would only be worthy of a home economics class in high school. Your friend is not stupid. They know how money works. Don’t give advice if you are not asked for it.


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Does it really matter how the bankruptcy happened or why it happened the way it did? No, it doesn’t. At the end of the day, what caused the bankruptcy to happen? There’s no turning back the clock. Your friend doesn’t want to rehash it.

Putting them in the spotlight and asking them to explain themselves will only make them feel worse. Now is the time to look forward. Congratulate them on taking control of their lives.

“More Responsibility, Please.”

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It’s strange how the basic decency of keeping judgmental words to oneself goes out the window with bankruptcy. You don’t know what was going through their minds when they bought what they bought. You don’t know the full scope of their situation or what happened.

If you cannot say anything nice, just stay quiet. Otherwise, your friend probably won’t want to talk to you after the bankruptcy goes through.

“You Should…”

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Most people do not want to hear advice from anyone during times of financial hardship. Unless you are their bankruptcy lawyer or a similar financial advisor on their team, you should not offer any advice. Don’t tell them to sell their stuff. Don’t tell them to talk to their creditors.

Leave. It. Alone. This is not your place to offer your two cents.

“But I Could’ve…”

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This is yet another example of putting the blame on the bankrupt person. It doesn’t matter what you could have done. More importantly, there was no guarantee that you would have been able to help them out. They probably didn’t want to rely on you because they didn’t want to drag you into their problems.

You don’t know if you would have actually been able to bail them out. Moreover, you don’t know the scope of their problems. Please stop playing the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” game.

“Switch Careers.”

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The very last thing that people want to hear is judgment. If you’re poo-pooing their career, that’s a form of judgment. Most people are fairly passionate about their jobs. If you start talking about how their job led them to poverty, it won’t go over well.

The best thing you can do is be uplifting, tell them that they’d recover from this, and that you’re there for them.

Anything Religious.

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There is an alarming number of people who tend to view bankruptcy and other major life issues as a sign that it’s time to convert others to religion. This is quite possibly the worst thing you can do, unless the person who you’re talking to is already a devout follower.

No one wants to hear that God is testing them with this. They also don’t want to hear about how more prayer can save them and give them prosperity. If anything, they may want moral support and a quick prayer. Use a little tact and think about how they feel right now.

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