Kent Gutzler

Credit: Don't Let Debt Haunt Your Financial Future...
 
Credit: Don't Let Debt Haunt Your Financial Future...
ARAnet, inc.

(ARA) - Many Americans want to get out of debt and better manage their money. Currently, consumer debt is at an all-time high and many people are still paying off their credit cards from years ago.

According to the experts at Consolidated Credit Counseling Services, the first step is to take a look at your credit situation and figure out your debt-to-income ratio. As a rule of thumb, your total installment debt (e.g., credit cards, auto loans, student loans) shouldn't exceed 15 percent of your annual take-home pay.

Many people receive zero percent credit card offers that are enticing, but you must remember that credit card issuers give you a line of credit based on the information available to them regarding your financial situation, but you are the best judge of what you can comfortably manage. Just because you have a certain amount of credit available on your card, doesn't mean you should use it and max out your available credit.

Here are some sure signs that you need to revamp your finances:

* Your credit cards are maxed out and you're only paying the minimum. Failing to settle your bill in full can lead to whopping finance charges. If you skip a payment, you can add on staggering late fees in addition to the interest.

* An increasing amount of income goes to paying your debt. Only 15 percent of take-home pay should be spent on fulfilling credit obligations.

* You're using one card to pay off another. Don't fool yourself into thinking you're squaring away your debt. All you're doing is borrowing more money.

* You decide that your next trip to the doctor will have to wait. If you're jeopardizing your health because of a lack of money, it's time to reevaluate your credit situation.

To learn more about consumer debt and how to manage your finances visit www.consolidatedcredit.org.

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