Is Your Debt Level Normal?

In recent years, many people have incurred dangerous levels of debt. In part, this is due to aggressive marketing on the part of creditors. You may have worked hard to build and maintain your credit. But especially if you have good credit, you may not be able to trust the creditor to tell you it’s time to quit incurring debt.

And too many people believe that “as long as I can make the payment, I can afford the purchase.”

But there are some easy tools you can use to check up on your situation. First is your debt-to-income ratio.

As a rule of thumb, your rent or mortgage payment should be no more than 25% of your income. This should include taxes and insurance. If both you and your spouse work include both incomes only if both are permanent and stable. In recent years, some mortgage lenders and real estate salespeople have suggested that this percentage could be raised to 35%, but that can be a recipe for disaster in today’s uncertain economy.

Credit card debt and auto financing can safely equal 10% of your annual income. While you *can* count bonuses and overtime as part of your income, it makes more sense to only count your base income and set aside additional income as “special” funds to take vacations, make home improvements, pay down debt or finance emergency savings funds.

While debt levels higher than these may be “normal” in today’s society, they are not safe. Most Americans are within two paychecks of serious financial trouble, especially as total debt levels approach 50% or more of income.

And no matter what society considers normal, or experts consider “safe”, if you don’t feel comfortable at your current level of debt, begin immediately to take proactive steps to reduce debt.

There are online debt planning calculators you can use to devise a payoff plan to reduce or eliminate debt. Most people choose to pay off high interest credit card and auto loans first; while others focus on building emergency savings or home equity.

You can also sign up for debt management plans, where a professional credit counselor will help you by devising a payment plan and working with creditors to reduce interest rates and penalties. You make one payment to the plan, and the plan administrator allocates it to creditors. As these services become more prevalent, quality varies widely. Before signing up for credit counseling research the company’s reputation.

You can get the credit monster under control and come out even better than “normal”.

How To Erase Debt

eraseBecoming financially prepared for the future involves getting rid of debt. Many consumers wonder how much debt should be kept – and the answer is that if your debt is under thirty percent of your credit limits, than you are probably okay. Any number higher than thirty percent can seem to loom over your finances making every payment seem like a payment to the dark side.

To boost the health of your finances it is important to erase the debt that could so easily take over your finances. Here are some tips that you can use to erase the debt that you have accumulated.

Pay more than the minimum payment. Paying more than the minimum payment guarantees that a high amount of the payment will actually reach the principal of the credit card, as a significant portion of the minimum monthly payment is designed to cover the interest payments that have accumulated from the balance.

Create a budget that includes fifteen percent of the income for debt repayment. If fifteen percent of the income is allocated towards debt repayment, the consumer can easily repay their debt creating a repayment plan to get out of debt quicker than ever. It is important to realize that small sacrifices can be used to create changes within the budget that allow the fifteen percent for debt repayment to become easily attainable.

To avoid debt in the future use these tips:

Avoid using the credit card unless you can afford to repay what has been purchased within the same billing period. This can help to avoid interest fees, as purchases that are repaid within the grace period do not accrue interest. The grace period ranges from twenty to twenty eight days, depending on the credit card company that you deal with.

Don’t use buy now pay later plans. Many times, consumers will take advantage of these plans to save money in the present, but think about the money that will have to be repaid later! It is easy to forget that these payments are going to become due; therefore there are very few consumers that save for the funding of the purchase.

Live within your means. More than eighty percent of consumers are spending outside of their means and living above their income. This means that debt is used every single month to cover the shortfalls that exist within the income. The only way to truly avoid debt is to live within your means and if you cannot, than it is important to find alternate sources of income or lower the expenses within the household.

Establish a savings account. A savings account is often used as an alternative to debt and credit cards. A savings account is an essential way to prepare for the future and have this alternative to charging items or expenses that are required in the state of an emergency.

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