Bankruptcy Blog

Thoughts on Societal Educational, Social Welfare, and Bankruptcy in 2017

I grew up privileged. I didn’t know it at the time. My parents didn’t buy me much. My brothers and I didn’t have cable or video games. Nothing name-brand, and if it was, it was from the goodwill. But I grew up in a decent school district, and, more importantly, with two parents that were able to teach me invaluable financial lessons.

The privilege of which I speak is not the kind you hear about from Beverly Hills, Newport Beach, or even Dublin, Upper Arlington, and Bexley. It’s a more intangible privilege than simply “amount of money.”

I am the youngest kid in a family of 6. Like I said, I didn’t grow up with a lot of material things, but we had stability, and enough savings for a rainy day or two. Looking back, that’s privilege.

When I became a bankruptcy attorney a few years ago, I started with the naïve mindset that anyone could get a job whenever they wanted, and I had the idea that people should simply save more money; because that’s how I was raised. I have matured and learned much since then. Not everyone has the privilege of growing up in my community and with the lessons my parents were able to teach me.

Many, many people grow up with a turbulent childhood. Everyday life is about much more than simply going to school and learning, coming home and doing homework, then going to sleep in a comfortable bed and repeating. From a young age, they learn there are more important things than the differences between plant and animal cells, or the history of American settlements. While I had a comfortable, stable routine, many children face real adversity that make school a secondary priority.

Then high school is populated with children that were not raised in a situation where school was the top priority, so there are countless distractions and hurdles to paying attention in class and learning. Oh, and by the way, the schools are STILL trying to teach these kids about the animal kingdom, physics, chemistry, etc.  For most kids, these subjects will never have a practical impact on their lives. Why blindly teach it in every school? I don’t know.

It seems to me that the priority of some schools should be stressing the importance of budgeting/saving, preparing your own tax returns, how interest rates on loans work, and the adverse effect that drugs will have on your health and life. MY school didn’t even teach me these lessons, but I was privileged enough to have parents that did. Many children are not privileged enough to have parents to teach them these extremely important life lessons that will 100% directly impact their everyday lives. So why don’t schools tailor their curriculum to these situations? I don’t know. But I will venture a guess that the State Boards that design the curriculum (1) don’t appreciate the problem faced by many kids, (2) don’t appreciate the importance of these topics, and (3) have too much red tape to actually implement a more tailored school-by-school curriculum.

Thus, children leave high school without much practical education about THEIR real world. They don’t go to college because it’s simply not in the cards for them. It would be very difficult for a kid with this background to get a high paying job. It is easy for some people to blame the individuals, but is it their fault? No, I would posit that it’s generally society’s fault for not appreciating these issues, and not helping prioritize these lessons.

I’m NOT pretending to have the all-encompassing answers. Just like no governor has ever produced one. But I will say that I agree that a short-term band-aid on the problem that was put in motion decades ago, is to have AT LEAST a base-line welfare system to provide less-privileged sects of society the essentials: Housing, food, transportation, medical care, etc. Further, I'm an advocate of expanding the already-beneficial bankruptcy program so that more US citizens can use them more often.

More importantly for society as a whole is to recognize there is a problem with the education system and to start working toward a long-term solution. In that solution should be a prioritization on education of budgeting/saving, preparing your own tax returns, how interest rates on loans work, and the adverse effect that drugs will have on your health and life (I am also a criminal defense attorney, and in my limited experience, the root of many crimes is drug addiction).

Even though I was privileged to have been born into my family and community, I realize I am still only a stroke or two of bad luck (high medical expenses, job loss, costly car repairs, etc)  away from being able to utilize the benefits of the chapter 7 and chapter 13 bankruptcy program offered by the laws of the Federal Government. The law is there for a reason, and the laws are very beneficial to every citizen.

Because society has very much set-up some people for failure, I appreciate that the bankruptcy program exists as a means of relief. Among many other benefits, the bankruptcy code is a sword people can use to fight back against the inevitable debt that will accrue over a period of years.


Lucas Ruffing