McLEAN, Va. (08/05/14)--More than a third of the U.S. is having trouble paying debt on time. Thirty-five percent of Americans have debt in collections--a bill overdue by 180 days--according to a new study from the Urban Institute, Washington, D.C. Payments this late have been reported to a credit bureau and can affect your credit score (USAToday.com
On average, each of the 77 million Americans with debt in collections owes $5,200, which includes debt from credit cards, medical bills, utility bills, child support, membership fees, and even parking tickets. If you're in this situation here are steps you can take:
Contact your credit union. If your debt includes credit union accounts, contact a credit union representative to discuss the possibility of modifying your loan or credit card terms to make payments more affordable. Credit unions have options that will keep you from resorting to nontraditional lenders, such as payday lenders, who prey upon borrowers who believe they have no other options. Credit union credit cards, mortgages, home equity lines of credit, and other products generally have lower interest rates and better repayment terms than you can find elsewhere. For non-credit union debt, contact those creditors as well and explain your situation. They also may be willing to work with you.
Reduce expenses. There usually is wiggle room in spending categories such as dining out or getting take-out, transportation, and entertainment. Don't stop there, though; scrutinize every expense.
Increase your income. Find an additional job or pick up overtime hours if you can. Start a side business offering a skill you're good at such as babysitting, making repairs, or helping the elderly. If you have an extra room, consider renting it out. Consider selling assets such as jewelry, an RV, a second car or collectibles.
Contact a reputable credit counselor. A credit union representative can refer you to a credit counselor within the credit union or to a reputable nonprofit credit counseling agency such as an affiliate of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. A counselor will look at your financial picture and help you develop an action plan.
For related information, read the Turning Point "Understand All Your Options for Dealing with Debt" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center