As the U.S. economy slowly recovers from the recession of 2008-09, a familiar financial issue is returning to the forefront--debt. A new study by the nonpartisan Urban Institute says the average American in 2013 carried $15,898 in non-mortgage debt. A similar study done by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) revealed similar results. "A disturbing number of people carry debt over from month to month," says Gail Cunningham, spokeswoman for the NFCC. "And even worse than that, many carry in excess of $2500 over from month to month."
Cunningham tells KTRH that the main factor behind most of Americans' bloated debt load is simply not paying attention to finances. "When things are going well we put our finances on auto pilot and pat ourselves on the back about what a good job we're doing," she says. "When in reality, we don't know where the money is going." Cunningham adds that many people even failed to change their spending and money habits after dealing with the effects of the recession, which in turn only drove them further into debt. "We all think that spending is more fun than saving, until we have a financial emergency," she says.
Of course, it's easy to understand why Americans are so willing to go into debt when the federal government continues to pile up debt at levels never seen before. However, Cunningham says people don't have to follow the poor example of Washington, D.C. "I don't think that people should blame someone else, even if that someone else is the federal government," she explains. "We need to have more personal responsibility in this country." Cunningham recommends finding a good financial advisor or debt counselor to help you get on the right track with your money. But she cautions against debt consolidation plans or get-out-of-debt-quick plans that sound too good to be true. "There is plenty of solid financial help available to people if they will just reach out and ask for it," says Cunningham.