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Try new debt-reduction strategies in 2017

If your New Year's resolutions include resolving old debts, keep reading. According to the Federal Reserve, almost half of households in America can't pay off their credit card bills each month. The combined debt figure tops $800 billion owed to plastic accounts.

That breaks down to, on average, over $15K owed by each household, which is typically owed on four credit accounts. Consumers wind up juggling debts between cards, robbing Peter to pay Paul just to get from month to month.

What is the most effective repayment strategy to get consumers back into the black again? Recent research suggests consumers get more motivated by focusing on the smallest account and paying it off in full.

HelloWallet, a financial guidance company, provided researchers with anonymous data over a three-year period. The data included monthly information regarding credit card spending, repayments and outstanding balances on almost 6,000 HelloWallet accounts.

These were consumers who it can be presumed intended to learn how to effectively manage their debts. Researchers discovered that those consumers who focused repayment on a single one of several accounts were more successful in paying off debts than those who took a more scattershot effort and made equal payments to multiple accounts.

There appeared to be a psychological component involved, as the debtors saw the one-at-a-time pay-off strategies moved them closer to their goal faster. The perceived progress enhanced the consumers' motivation to continue allocating funds to pay down their debts.

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy with debt management. Ignoring some credit debts in order to pay off others can have a deleterious effect on one's credit rating, and sometimes the debt mountain can simply be too large for this strategy to be feasible.

In those circumstances, it may be wise to consult with a New Jersey bankruptcy attorney to learn about other options that are available.

Source: Harvard Business Review, "Research: The Best Strategy for Paying Off Credit Card Debt," Remi Trudel, Dec. 27, 2016

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