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When is it time to take serious steps to reduce your debt?

If being in debt has become the norm for you, as it is for many people, it may be hard to determine just when you have too much.

What are some key objective criteria you can evaluate to determine if you have more debt than you should? Following are a few.

  • You're paying for everyday expenses with credit cards and other types of loans or you're using one credit card to make payments on another.
  • You're using funds from your "emergency savings" or even your regular savings accounts for every unexpected expense. That money (which should be enough to live on for at least several months) is for a true emergency like a car crash that sends you to the hospital or losing your job.
  • You're alternating which payments you make each month. Perhaps one month you pay your student loan and skip your mortgage payment or you alternate which credit card payments you make.

It's also essential to take an honest look at your debt-to-income ratio. A traditional rule has been that monthly debt should be no more than 20 percent of net monthly income (not counting mortgage payments.) However, many financial experts say that 20 percent is actually too high. Even 15 percent can be putting you in a potentially dangerous situation.

Realizing that you have a debt problem is the first step to getting back on track. Depending on whom your creditors are, you may be able to work out payment plans or even seek some type of debt forgiveness. Financial advisors and attorneys who specialize in debt relief are good sources for guidance.

Source: Wise Bread, "5 Surefire Signs You Have Too Much Debt," Denise Hill, Dec. 18, 2017

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