When a large corporation files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, it's business as usual without a cloud of taint hanging overhead. If anything, the corporation's CEO is heralded as a smart businessman with a plan to restructure the company's debt and set the business on a healthier course.
But personal bankruptcy says something else. It screams "loser" and throws up more flags than a badly officiated NFL game. Or at least it used to.
Given the past few rocky economic years, personal bankruptcies have mounted; in 2010 alone, about 1.5 million people filed for bankruptcy. And one off-shoot of that staggering number is that some of the people who cross into your dating radar may be card-carrying members of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy club. Are they damaged goods who should be avoided or just someone who fell into the recession pit and deserves a second chance?
According to Leslie Greenman, financial planner and author of "Dating Our Money," this is a land-mined field that boomers are increasingly confronting. And the simple answer is that there is no simple answer.
To some extent, says Greenman, what matters is the circumstances that led to your suitor's financial mess. She tends to forgive illness and medical expenses if they are the underlying reasons behind someone's bankruptcy. But for those who lived high on the hog until the bill collectors caught up to them, she is less forgiving. You don't fall into heavy debt overnight, she notes. And overspenders, or those who couldn't read the writing on the unemployment wall, are people who may not be smart-enough money managers to warrant making a spot for them in your life.
"If we're talking about someone who filed for bankruptcy protection and still eats out at five-star restaurants and takes luxury vacations, I say run in the opposite direction as fast as you can," Greenman advises.
The ideal date in the bankruptcy pond is someone who owns up to the problem and has a plan to move forward. Avoid those with a victim mentality, says Greenman. "The 'poor me' people -- the ones who say 'everything happened to me, life is so unfair' -- aren't who you want to be with. They'll just bring you down and in these financially challenging times, you want someone who will build you up, not bring you down."
Isn't it a mixed message to say it's OK to date someone who shouldn't be spending money on things you may still enjoy and be able to afford to do?
"Remember what's the most valuable thing in life," said Greenman. "I would chose eating at home or spending the evening browsing around a bookstore with someone I love over a five-star dinner with someone who shouldn't be spending that kind of money."
Here are five no-no's when it comes to dating someone in bankruptcy: