There are so many reasons people acquire debt, and even debt exists on a scale from “good” to “bad.” For instance, there are many valuable kinds of debt—such as using a loan to buy a home. But debt can also get out of control, and lead people down a difficult path of overwhelming loans—especially when it comes to “bad” debt like carrying a credit card balance.
The point? Debt is complicated. While it’s easy to write off debt as simply an issue of overspending, it’s important to understand that many factors actually play into debt. Here’s another way to think about it.
The Most Common Cause of Bankruptcy Isn’t Overspending
A lot of people automatically assume that someone declares bankruptcy because of a personal failure. The image in a lot of people’s heads about bankruptcy is that people only go through it if they spend too much and then can’t pay it back. However, this is not even close to the top reason why people file for bankruptcy. The true number one reason people go bankrupt is because of medical debt. An inability to pay for costly medical bills accounts for over 60 percent of individual bankruptcies in the United States. And before you assume that’s just because they don’t have insurance—it’s not. Over 70 percent of people who file for bankruptcy due to medical costs have some form of health coverage.
You Can’t Control Losing Your Job
Issues with work are typically cited as the next-most common reason people file for bankruptcy after medial costs. Either having reduced income—or losing your job—can put you in a precarious financial position, even if you’re lucky and can collect some unemployment benefits. It shouldn’t be surprising that a hit to your income can be the impetus for sending you toward bankruptcy—especially when almost 80 percent of people in the U.S. are living paycheck to paycheck.
Even though there are people who file bankruptcy because they were irresponsible with their credit, it’s by no means the most common reason for it.
How to Get Out of Debt
No matter how you got into debt, here are a few ways you can reduce or eliminate it without going so far as to declare bankruptcy:
- Get serious about budgeting your money. Maybe you’ve tried budgeting in the past, or even are using some form of a budget right now. If you’re having trouble with debt, but don’t feel like you’re really overspending, it’s a good idea to dive deep into some other ways to cut expenses. You might want to look at your fixed payments—such as rent, your mortgage, or auto loan. Is there any way for you to downsize in any of these ways? Getting more frugal with your vehicle or housing can quickly give you more money to pay down debt. You should also try using budgeting apps to help you stay on top of your finances while paying down debt.
- Do a balance transfer from high-interest credit cards to one with a lower interest rate. A balance transfer can be a beneficial idea for people with credit card debt on a few cards that are all accruing interest at a high rate. Often, you can consolidate those balances onto another card, which will give you a low introductory rate for a certain period. It’s important that you take advantage of that time to pay down the debt—as interest will start growing again after the low APR period ends.
- Work with a debt relief company. For some consumers, teaming up with a debt relief agency to negotiate with creditors for a more favorable settlement is the best way to tackle debt. It’s important, however, that you find the right company, as some are much more reliable than others. Freedom Financial Network, for instance, offers people a strong lineup of debt relief options, with plenty of consumer reviews online to back it up. Debt relief strategies like settlement can take several years to complete, but the end result can be zeroing out your debts for less than their original price tag.
Understanding Why Certain Debt Seems to Never Go Away
For some people, it can seem like their debt just lasts forever, even when they’re paying what they owe each month. This is because your interest rate can often entirely negate the minimum payment on debt. Credit cards are notorious for taking forever to pay off if you only make the minimum payment. They come with incredibly high interest rates, which means you’re going to be accruing more money you need to pay back the longer you let the balance sit there. It’s a good idea to dedicate as much as you can to high interest debt like credit cards as opposed to paying the minimum. You can use a credit card repayment calculator to see how long it will take you to pay off your balance if you make payments of different sizes.
Debt happens for a lot of reasons. Overspending is one of those reasons; but it’s not at all the primary cause for people going into debt. You can beat your debt by learning more about how it works and coming up with a realistic plan for paying it down.