It’s no secret—Americans really know how to get into debt. U.S. household debt climbed to $15.8 trillion in the first quarter of 2022. The numbers are even more staggering on a personal level. As of Fall 2021, the average family credit card debt totaled just over $6,000, whereas an average household with auto loans owes about $29,000. Student-loan debt averaged $59,000 and average mortgage debt was around $207,800.
Fewer Americans understand how to get out of debt. While it starts with willpower, there are proven financial strategies to consider. KEMBA Financial Credit Union, with locations in Ohio, offers a variety of tools and resources to help you improve your financial wellness, including low-interest loans, credit card options, webinars, and seminars.
Make the Commitment
If you’re carrying a lot of debt, be prepared to put about 15% of your income toward reducing it. Making only minimum payments on your credit cards and other loans will cause interest charges to pile up, meaning it will be difficult to break the cycle and get out of debt.
- Find online assistance. Consider investing in debt-elimination software to help you run the numbers and set priorities. Popular choices include Quicken, Zilch Works, and Undebt.it. Smartphone apps, such as Debt Payoff Planner and Debt Free, are also available.
- Tighten the belt. To free up money for debt payments, you’ll need to reduce spending. Come up with a monthly budget, put it in writing, and stick to it. Cut back where you can by cooking rather than dining out. Cancel cable and opt for a more cost-effective streaming service. Bargain hunt for great deals on discount sites like Groupon and Slickdeals. Small adjustments to your spending habits can add up over time.
- Seek bigger savings. Evaluate your insurance policies to see if you can find less-expensive coverage that still meets your needs. KEMBA can help you find affordable alternatives to your home, auto, life and long-term care, and health insurance policies.
Use Credit Cards Wisely
Credit cards offer convenient buying power and can earn you valuable rewards. Problems arise, however, if you charge too much and carry a balance, causing interest to accumulate.
- Set priorities. If you have multiple credit cards, find the one with the highest interest rate. Pay that card down as aggressively as possible while making minimum payments on the others. After the first card is paid off, give your largest payment to the card with the second-highest interest rate, and so on, until you eliminate your debt.
- Look for 0% interest rates. Another technique is to apply for a new credit card that offers a promotional 0% interest rate, usually for a period of 12 to 24 months, then transfer all outstanding balances to the new card. This will buy you time to pay down the balance without accruing additional interest charges. KEMBA offers a low-rate Platinum Rewards Visa card with a 12-month introductory rate on balance transfers.
Be Strategic About Your Loans
Buying a home, getting a new car, sending your children to college—these can all be worthwhile investments, and borrowing money is a great way to make them happen. While loans can allow you to make major expenditures, keeping up with the payments can be a challenge.
- Make mortgages manageable. Most homes are financed with 15- or 30-year mortgages, but you’re not obligated to keep the original loan that long. If interest rates drop, consider refinancing. Even a 1% rate reduction can trim payments on a $200,000 mortgage by well over $100 per month. If rates haven’t dipped, switching to a loan with a longer payoff period will reduce monthly payments and free up cash to pay off shorter-term debt. KEMBA can help you navigate our many mortgage refinancing options.
- Shift gears. Consumers often drive away from an auto dealer with a vehicle they love and a loan they don’t. The solution is to trade in that unsatisfactory loan on your new car, motorcycle, or RV. Refinancing your auto loan to a lower interest rate or longer repayment period will reduce monthly payments and minimize stress on your household budget. KEMBA provides a range of auto refinancing options to help you get back on track.
- Simplify student loans. Student debt can be crippling. One solution is to consolidate all those years of school loans into a single new loan to reduce overall monthly payments and simplify your finances. College grads with federal loans can apply for a Direct Consolidation Loan. Or check out the student loan financing and refinancing options from KEMBA’s Student Lending Solutions.
- Get it together. Debt consolidation is an effective tactic. KEMBA offers great rates on personal loans, home equity loans, and lines of credit. You can use money from those sources to pay off credit card balances, medical bills, and even school loans, bringing your debt under control.
- Beware of debt-relief companies. Many debt-relief companies can be scams. In November, a student loan debt-relief scheme siphoned millions out of former students’ pockets, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Contact your state Attorney General’s Office or consumer protection agency to vet debt-relief companies before giving them your business. You can also reach out to your financial partners at KEMBA for help consolidating loans and paying off debt.
Developing a smart strategy to pay down your debt and consolidate loans will help you get a handle on your finances. KEMBA Financial Credit Union provides a variety of resources to help suburban Cincinnati members understand their options and improve their overall financial health.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you manage your debt.