I finally made it back to > 100k Credits! After losing another combat-specialized scout ship due to taking on stronger pirates than I could handle, I was nearly out of funds, which was making doing missions hard because a lot of the best faction missions require you to purchase something and give it away. So I flew out to a nearby ringed planet to see if I could figure out this mining thing (before actually buying mining equipment) ... but there were pirates there too! Incredibly lucrative pirates ... and system security to help you shoot them down!
Taking care of a few of those got me back to the number of credits I started the game with So now I need to see where I want to go from here