Q. I have $25,000 in credit card debt – lost my job with COVID and struggled for a while – $200,000 mortgage and $80,000 in student loans. I am able to make the minimum payment on credit cards but I never advance and the interest is killing me. When and how can I decide if I should declare bankruptcy?

— Debtor

A. We are sorry to hear that you had a difficult time.

It’s hard to get by when you can only do minimum payments on accounts payable.

Filing for bankruptcy is never an easy decision. But it might be the best move when you’re in too much debt and need to find financial relief, said Union City bankruptcy attorney Karra Kingston.

She said that while making the minimum payment on your credit cards is a good thing, it can be an endless payment if you don’t pay off your debt.

“If you continue to make monthly payments and you notice that the debt continues to increase and not decrease, it may be time to consider filing for bankruptcy,” she said.

Also, if you don’t put money aside for rainy days, that could be a good indication that you may need to settle your debt, she said, noting that having an emergency fund is important. If you can’t have an emergency fund, as soon as an emergency happens, you could find yourself in even worse financial trouble, she said.

Kingston said many bankruptcy attorneys in New Jersey offer free consultations.

“At a minimum, you should take advantage of it so they can review your financial documents and determine if filing the claim bankruptcy is the right option for you,” she said. “Pre-bankruptcy planning is allowed and the sooner you talk to someone, the clearer you will have of whether bankruptcy is a good option for you.”

Send your questions to [email protected].

Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboos column for NJ Advance Media and is the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Follow NJMoneyHelp on Twitter @NJMoneyHelp. To find NJMoneyHelp on Facebook. Sign up for NJMoneyHelp.comit’s weekly e-newsletter.