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Deborah Wants to Write Letters to Creditors. But is That a Waste of Time?


“Dear Steve,

I have over $30,000 of debt. Most of this is credit card debt but almost as much is medical (doctors, emergency room, ambulance, nursing home, etc.) I thankfully had insurance that paid 80% of those bills.

I am disabled now. I have just recently begun getting a disability check ($677.00/month) I have no job, no savings, no checking account, no property, car, etc. I do not own a house either. I am divorced.

I stay with my sons and their families. I also stay with my ex-husband at times. I do still receive my mail at his house.

I am on some very expensive medications, I still have to go to the doctor every 2 months. I have test done (blood, urine, etc) In other words most of my disability goes to pay for medical needs. I will be eligible for medicare/medicaid, in January ’09.

I do not have money to even see a lawyer about filing bankruptcy much less pay court cost or whatever that is called. I have had three garnishments, even though I haven’t worked in over 2 years. The collection people call my children, my brothers, sisters, ex-husband, and even my ex-brother-in-law. I am 52 years old.

I don’t know what to do. I think I should write letters to the creditors and explain my situation. My son says they don’t care a bit about why I can’t pay. I don’t own anything that can be repossessed. My son says to just forget about it, my credit is already ruined. Can they put me in jail for this? I am so frightened. We do not have a free legal aid here where I live.


Dear Deborah,

I am so sorry that you have had to live through this struggle and financial stress. Hopefully by the time you finish reading my answer you’ll feel better about the situation.

Here is what I learned from reading your information; you are homeless and broke. While you have a roof over your head, thanks to the kindness of people that love you, you have nothing for creditors to go after. You did not mention it but I suspect you don’t have loads of stocks or cash in the bank.

In your current financial state, bankruptcy would probably be the best solution since there is no expectation that you will be able to repay these debts. But it isn’t free to go bankrupt, even if a bankruptcy lawyer donated their time to help. You could go down to the local bankruptcy court, get the forms for free and file bankruptcy yourself but you’d still have to pay the court fees. Maybe you can ask for bankruptcy filing fees for the upcoming holidays?

Writing letters to your creditors may be a valuable exercise if it helps you to feel like you have done the responsible thing by being open and honest with them. The reality is that it probably won’t change a thing or stop collection activity, except for maybe a random creditor. Generally it is not effective at all.

Your situation does not prevent you from being pursued by collectors or sued by your creditors. But even if your creditors sued you and won, which they will, you don’t have anything for them to go after. If your financial situation improves you could go bankrupt then and it would kill the financial claims against you, even if you are sued and lose.

You can deal with the collectors in the following ways:

About the author

Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.


  • I don’t understand why jail time is off the table. If you buy products or services and don’t pay for them, it’s theft. Maybe this country would be better off by not letting people steal (bankrupcy filers) from the people that actually work and pay taxes.

    • If someone has a longterm illness with thousands of dollars of monthly medical costs, they are not “stealing” to get medical care. Sometimes the only way a doctor will see you is if you put the charges on credit card. If one has to be self-employed due to illness (in my case for 32 years, with several medical appts. per week and 11 monthly prescriptions) and the cheapest health insurance is over $1000 a month after age 50 and copays and deductibles and prescriptions are another $5000 a year, and one works every available hour that one can and takes only a few days off a year apart from medical visits, one is not stealing in order to get the medical care that keeps one alive. For those of us who became disabled early in life, the maximum disability payments we could collect is likely to be $400/month – and when renting one room in a shared house costs at least $800 where I live and a 1 bedroom apt. costs $1500/month to rent plus another $200/month for heat, this means homelessness.  I choose to work rather than die on the street, live very cheaply, and don’t own anything worth over $20 except an old computer. Most people in debt are in debt because of huge medical costs over which they have no control. They should not be blamed.

  • Get the bankruptcy forms on-line or at an office supply store, fill them out and file yourself. Ask your kids to pony up the filing fee. A whole lot cheaper than a lawyer You need to get free of this harrassment for your health’s sake. God Bless.

  • I WAS PAYMEN A DEBT COLLECTION IN THE AMOUNT OF 200.00 A MONTH, THIS PAST April I CONTACT THEM WASN’T WORKING due to my husband became sick and have cancer… I have explaine this to the collection dept. But they have started back calling me what am i to do? I have been sending then 100.00 a month ALSO MY MOTHE OF 73 YEARS OLD I HAVE TO TAKE CARE OF TOO,I HAVE NO INCOME

  • Dear Mr. Rhode,
    I was dismissed from my job after 13 years. I’m 67, and your letter was the first breath of fresh air I have had. Thank you.

    Charles Schubert

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