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Fresno was named for the abundance of Ash trees, fresno in Spanish, along the San Joaquin River. Occupying some of the richest farmland in California’s Central Valley, the area has long attracted migrants from both within and without the state by its breathtaking scenery, copious rainfall and highly arable land.

The city has the distinction of being the birthplace of the modern credit card. In 1958, Bank of America launched their first electronic credit card. The invention was wildly popular and, although there had been earlier card systems which relied on similar principles, the BankAmericard was the first to gain widespread popularity and enter circulation by the millions. Later, the card would be spun off into a household name, Visa.

Despite a healthy financial sector, the city today still relies, perhaps, more heavily on agriculture than any other in the country. Being the main population center of California’s Central Valley, the city is home to the headquarters of major producers of citrus fruits, vegetables, nuts and exotic tree-born fruits, such as avocados. Astoundingly, for many of these agricultural products, the Fresno area supplies nearly the entirety of the nation’s stock. For example, the Central Valley produces over 99 percent of U.S. pistachios, pomegranates, kiwi, and figs.

The area is so fertile that it became the sole destination for millions upon millions of so-called Okies, during the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s. Fleeing the barren landscape of the southern Midwest, which had been stripped of its topsoil and covered in layers of dust from constant dust storms, the Okies found some of the richest farm land in the country. Word quickly spread, leading to one of the largest internal migrations in U.S. history.

Despite the still-thriving agricultural sector, things have been difficult for Fresno residents since the financial crisis of 2008. The average home price plummeted from $300,000 in 2007, to just $112,000 two years later. This wiped out the entire net worth of a large segment of Fresno residents. Despite housing costs since recovering back up to $220,000, the city has been left with one of the worst unemployment rates in the entire nation, at 11.5 percent. This is far higher than even the already high state average of 5.5 percent. The rate actually represents a marked improvement from the late 2000s, when the official unemployment rate was flirting with 20 percent, one of the highest in the United States since the Depression.

With so many Fresno residents facing economic strife, it’s no wonder that many have turned to the succor of the bankruptcy courts to seek relief from their crushing financial burdens. However, Chapter 7 comes with its own set of nasty side-effects.

For many Fresno residents, other options may be far better than pressing the red button of bankruptcy. Debt settlement can often capture most of the benefits with just a fraction of bankruptcy’s horrific costs. For debtors who meet a certain set of conditions, debt settlement is often a far superior choice to the life-wrecking double edged bankruptcy sword.

Who can most benefit in Fresno from debt settlement?

One of the most common objections that personal finance experts raise with respect to debt settlement is that it doesn’t actually accomplish any long term resolution to the debtor’s problems because it simply allows for a quick fix, putting a band-aid on a bullet wound. Unfortunately, to the extent that debtors do not address the underlying spending habits or budgetary issues that led to the debt accumulation, those experts are exactly right. That’s why the first and most important condition that must be met, in order for debt settlement to have the highest chance of a long term resolution to the financial problems, is that the debtor is on a strict, written budget and has addressed all of the underlying issues which led to the spiraling debt in the first place.

The second condition that needs to be fulfilled for debt settlement to be a viable option is that the debt should consists solely of unsecured, consumer debt. This includes things like credit cards, store credit and even gambling markers at casinos. It does not include government controlled debts like student loans, alimony or back taxes. Any company claiming to be able to discharge government-backed debt is likely a scam and should be approached with extreme caution.

Finally, for debt consolidation to provide a means to a long term financial solution, the debtor should still have sufficient income relative to the debt amount so that the settlement program can be completed within no more than three years. The reason is that, after three years, the costs of remaining in debt become extremely steep, mostly due to the payment of interest and the inability to begin saving and compounding returns on investments. For debtors with principal amounts that are too large relative to their income, unfortunately, declaring Chapter 7 is often the only viable solution.

But if a debtor fits these criteria, debt settlement is likely to be a far better option that can often sharply reduce principal owed and help the debtor to become debt free in a matter of months to a year or two.