Mountain of debt: Americans borrowing more than ever

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
Rachel Klopfer, of Graceworks Credit Counseling in Springfleld talks about how she helps clients pay off their debt quicker.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Tina Wyatt has a Master's degree but it came at a cost.

"I had to take out loans. That's what you do and now I'm over $80,000 in debt and it's rough," said Wyatt of Huber Heights.

Wyatt said her payments are $900 a month and it's so much out of her budget, that she tries not to think about it.

"I've kind of put it on the backburner," said Wyatt.

» FINANCIAL ADVICE: 7 tips for getting rid of debt in your 20s 

The average student loan payment jumped from $227 a month in 2005 to nearly $393 a month in 2016. The average student loan debt is $37,172 according to the Federal Reserve. When it comes to credit card debt, Experian said the average balance is $6,375 and that is up nearly 3 percent from last year.

"Americans are borrowing more than ever," said Finance Lecturer Matt Ingram, from Wright State University. "When the economy is growing and people feel stable in their jobs, they think it's going to continue forever so they tend to borrow more."

He said the rise in student loans stems from an "easy money era."

"If there's an infinite amount of borrowing capacity, schools are just going to raise their prices," said Ingram. "That's what has fueled this increase."

» WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Digging out from a mountain of debt? You are not alone

So, what can you do about your finances? Experts told us you need to tackle credit card debt first.

"See where those money drains are and a lot of times it's fast food spending, and more money spent on children than you think, " said Rachel Klopfer, of Graceworks Credit Counseling in Springfleld. "It is very satisfying to pay off a debt."

This means you need to track every penny you spend to see what is left. The next step may seem illogical, but you need to pay yourself first.

"I would first want to make sure that in their budget is some savings," said Klopfer.

Before you start really digging into debt, she said you need to save at least $2,000. According to our expert, you will need this money because once you commit to paying off your credit cards, you have to stop using those cards. Next, you need to do something she calls "snowballing."

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"You take extra money and you work really hard at paying down debt," said Klopfer. "When something is paid off, it's going to roll to the next creditor."

If you are overwhelmed by federal college loans, go to studentloans.gov and estimate your payment. There you can find an income-based payment plan that will work for you and sign up right away.

"Private student loans are what I consider more of a problem," Klopfer said.

This means you may need to battle a bit to get on an income-based payment plan.

Tina Wyatt said she plans to take some of this advice.

"I want to be debt free at some point in my life," said Wyatt.

If you need help, Graceworks offers free consumer credit counseling in Dayton and Springfield.