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Is debt settlement a good stand-in for a bankruptcy filing?

Liz Weston is a veteran of the financial industry, being a certified financial planner and columnist on wide-ranging debt-related matters.

As Weston turns her singular insights toward examination of the so-called debt settlement realm, she admittedly thinks back to a period not so long ago when settlement companies operated widely and frenetically in what she calls "Wild West" mode.

Our readers across Arkansas know what that means, of course. It harkens back to a time when -- as Weston notes -- "people routinely paid hefty upfront fees to companies that failed to deliver any relief."

Things have allegedly improved a bit over the past decade and in the wake of shored-up government reforms aimed at shaking out bad-faith operators and tightening up rules and processes to better protect indebted consumers looking for relief.

But have they actually improved in any material way, with there being adequate safeguards for debtors and a meaningful link between what settlement companies promise and what they actually deliver?

Weston's view on that matter leaves no room for doubt. She writes in a recent article on the shortcomings of the debt settlement industry that settlement "is not as consumer-friendly as the industry presents it" and that it "falls short" in many particulars.

In discussing what she regards as the broad downsides that commonly exist for many consumers reaching out to settlement entities for debt relief, Weston contrasts the settlement industry with the process and outcomes provided for by bankruptcy.

A bankruptcy filing pursued with the help of a proven debt-relief attorney offers many upsides compared with other avenues pursued by debtors seeking a fresh financial start.

We'll take a closer look at that in our next blog post.

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