Oklahoma may soon feel economic slope

Thursday, October 9th 2008, 7:31 pm
By: News 9

By Jon Jordan, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Experts said Oklahoma may have been able to escape most of the economic hardships being experienced around the country, but the state is not immune.

New statistics show bankruptcies filings in Oklahoma are on the rise, and since a bankruptcy law went into effect in 2005, the state has seen its biggest number of bankruptcy filings a month.

The current number is nearly 1,000 more than last year and is expected to grow.

At the courthouse in downtown Oklahoma City, business is getting busier, with more and more people like Finess Bennett having to file bankruptcy.

"A lot of times, you're not prepared as far as planning for the long run, a lot of times things come up," Bennett said.

For Bennett, that include being recently separated from his fiancé and watching the price of goods go up while his salary has remained the same.

"It's been tough, still trying to fight the good fight," Bennett said. "Trying to keep what's mine."

Cristy Cash is a counselor with Oklahoma City's Consumer Credit Counseling Services and the first person someone consults with before turning to bankruptcy. She said in recent months, her office has seen their call volume rise dramatically. She said when the economy took a turn for the worse a lot of people weren't prepared.

"People were possibly living outside their means before prices began to go up," Cash said. "They also didn't have a savings cushion and so when an emergency came along, it caused them to be over-extended. "

Numbers show overall bankruptcy filings in the western half of the state are up 22.5 percent in 2008, and nearly 40 percent in September from the same month a year ago. It's a sign Oklahomans safe from economic problems facing the rest of the country may not have the sense of security for very long.

"This is a sign we're not immune to these things," Cash said. "Oklahoma is not immune to financial difficulty."

For those worried about their financial situation Consumer Credit Counseling recommends sitting down with the family and laying out a budget, tack spending and build a savings cushion.