Q: I have listened to you the past couple of weeks on WSB Radio in Atlanta as you have filled in for Clark Howard. I certainly enjoyed the insights that you shared.

I have a question that I wonder if you might be able to assist me with. I recently was discharged in Chapter 7 bankruptcy (discharge occurred 11/10/01). Over the past few years I allowed my spending to race out of control and it finally became to much of a burden for me to be able to handle my bills. I just could not come up with any other solution except bankruptcy.

I am a 42 year old single mother with an annual income of approximately $50,000. I am currently renting an apartment. I have always had a good credit rating and hope that I will be able to work towards a good rating in the future. My question is to ask you for advice on what I should be doing now to get myself back on the track to a good credit rating.

Also, I realize that I need to look seriously at purchasing a home at my earliest opportunity. My parents gave me a $10,000 gift at Christmas, which I have put into an 8 month CD. My parents gave me the gift specifically to be used as a down payment for a home. They have no idea that I declared bankruptcy and therefore am in no position to think about financing a home at the present time. My parents have told me that when I am ready to purchase a home they will give me another $10,000 to put toward the down payment. What I need to know is what can I be doing now to get myself into a position where I would be able to get a lender to consider me for a home loan? How long do you anticipate that it will be before I can be seriously considered for financing?

Any insight that you might be able to give me would be great appreciated.

A: Bankruptcy is a black mark on your credit and while you can get a loan after a year, you can forget about getting a loan at the kind of interest rates you’re seeing advertised. Expect to pay anywhere from 2 to 5 percent above the going rate. So if 30-year loans are at 7 percent, your loan might be at 10 percent, plus extra points and fees.

That said, you need to know just how bad your credit score is and what specifically you can do to improve it. So, go to myFICO.com and for $12.95 you can purchase a copy of your credit history and score. The site will give you excellent recommendations for improving your score. You may need to acquire a secured credit card, gas cards, or if you can, a visa card. Charge only what you can pay off at the end of the month. No balances.

Over time, your situation will improve dramatically. Just remember, you have to keep your spending on track.

As for not being honest with your parents, that’s up to you. But make sure your spending problem is taken care of, before you think about buying a home. When you’re ready to buy, I humbly suggest you read my book: 100 Questions Every First-Time Buyer Should Ask. It will walk you through the process, including all the financing and credit questions you may have.