A victim of media demonization, misinformation and stigmatization, bankruptcy is often a subject of scorn or horror. There is a common misconception that only spendthrifts or the financially inept file for bankruptcy.

However, rather than being a source of shame, bankruptcy is a valuable tool that offers you some measure of control in a sea of debt that often accrues due to uncontrollable circumstances such as severe illness or sudden layoffs from a company shutdown. Filing for bankruptcy helps grant you freedom from debt through restructuring or careful planning, but it is important that, as you start off with a clean slate in the post-bankruptcy period, you use this period wisely.

1. Do not let your credit score sit

Contrary to popular belief, bankruptcy does render your credit zero forever. However, depending on the type of bankruptcy you declare, it may have an effect. It is important to begin rebuilding your credit score. Pay your bills on time. Try to join a program or use a tool to report your paid-off utility bills so they impact your credit score positively. Keep a close eye on your credit score to ensure any debt paid off or forgiven has the proper effect.

2. Store your paperwork somewhere safe

Keep all of the documents pertaining to your bankruptcy in a secure location. Make copies and stash them in a separate place. If someone contacts you asking about your debt, you have the paperwork ready to look at.

3. Rebuild your savings

Debt makes it difficult to save money. However, a solid savings stash forms a buffer against future crises that may cause you to spiral back into debt.

Bankruptcy exists to aid you, not hurt you. When used properly, both during and after the process, it can help you attain a new life.