The Number One Reason People File for Bankruptcy

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

When we think about consumer debt, we tend to point a finger at folks for whom shopping sprees are a way of life. But the real reason a large number of Americans wind up in financial trouble has nothing to do with self-indulgence or an inability to resist temptation. Rather, it’s a matter of medical debt.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), more than a quarter of U.S. adults struggle to pay their medical bills. This includes folks who have insurance, whether independently or through an employer. In fact, medical debt is the No. 1 source of personal bankruptcy filings in the U.S., and in 2014, an estimated 40% of Americans racked up debt resulting from a medical issue.

A big reason so many people wind up in debt over medical issues is that they don’t have adequate savings to cover an unexpected cost and emergency savings can help:

According to a recent GoBankingRates survey, 69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings, while 34% have no money in the bank whatsoever. But there’s a reason we’re all advised to sock away enough savings to cover three to six months’ worth of living expenses. Even those of us with insurance are vulnerable in the face of a costly injury or illness, and without ample savings, collectively, we’re taking a pretty big risk.

As tempting as it may be to look at bankruptcy as a fallback option when your medical expenses get out of control, the much better bet is to work on building your savings.