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St. Joseph, MO Residents Face Huge Credit Score Problems

By Sally Maison
Published: Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Angie used to have a solid savings account which made if quite easy for her to maintain a top-tier credit score. But having two kids as a single woman did not prove to be that easy during the economic downturn. Soon enough, Angie dried up all her savings. This woman who refused to have her last name published said she had a credit rating that was high enough to make her qualify for a credit card with a $20,000 limit. After three years of financial struggle, she finally gave in to bankruptcy.

St. Joseph, MO Residents Face Huge Credit Score ProblemsResidents of St. Joseph, MO. know that they are in a tough fight for their credit ratings. But they had no idea how tough the city’s struggle is until their district’s bankruptcy court released its 2009 figures this week.  According to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Western District of Missouri, bankruptcy filings for St. Joseph Division surged by 28 percent from 2008 to 2009.

That is the second highest percentage increase in Missouri, just next to the 29 percent surge posted by the Joplin/Carthage Division. Meanwhile, both the Kansas City and the Springfield Divisions saw an 18 percent increase in their bankruptcy rate. Jefferson City saw a more modest increase in bankruptcy filings among the divisions at 15 percent. Across the United States, bankruptcy surged by 34.5 percent from September 2008 to September 2009.

Local bankruptcy lawyer Todd Griffee said a large job market has kept Kansas City’s bankruptcy rate quite low compared to St. Joseph’s. He attributed the city’s resiliency to its broad range of jobs.

Kansas City also has higher average incomes which made its residents cope with the recession better, according to Dr. Mark Jelavich, the chair of the economics department at Northwest Missouri State.

During that same period, Chapter 13 bankruptcies in Missouri went up by 32 percent while Chapter 7s increased by 27 percent. Both Griffee and Jelavich believe the increase in Chapter 13 filings means that there are more people who did not qualify for Chapter 7 or are trying to save major assets such as their homes.

Griffee cited consumerism as the major reason why people continue to file for bankruptcy. He noted that, as a consumer society, Americans have been living off debts just to keep up with their standard of living. He cited the trend as symptomatic of the society’s problems but he likewise believes people should also take personal responsibility.

As for people like Angie, going through bankruptcy has taught them that lesson of personal responsibility. Now, it is time for them to remap their financial plan to get back their lost credit scores.

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