Fuel prices guzzle disposable income; threaten next wave of bankruptcies

Elevated prices for gasoline and home heating oil are draining family budgets throughout the Merrimack Valley.

If you are looking for the likely cause for Massachusetts and New Hampshire consumers to file bankruptcy cases in 2012, you may have to look no further.

Even more than the rise in foreclosures, the drop in home values, or the persistent layoffs hitting our region, massive utility bills may fuel the next wave of consumer bankruptcy cases.

Gas prices averaged more than $3.50 per gallon in 2011, and heating oil prices are also at record highs. Oil traded briefly over $100 per barrel in December, though it has backed off a bit as of this writing. The damage that this does to household budgets is incalculable.

Utility bills, are however, dischargeable in bankruptcy; my prediction is that when more people and families are swamped by high fuel prices they will eventually have to turn to the bankruptcy courts for relief and a fresh start.


By Doug Beaton

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