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In a credit crunch? You may need professional help

You know you need to seek help from a credit counselor when ...

It may sound like a comedy routine opener, but for lots of people it's definitely not a laughing matter.

Many who are weighed down with debt opt first for self-help, trimming back on spending and keeping a close eye on accounts. But much like losing weight, some people have the willpower to shed a few pounds on their own while others require the help of a personal trainer.

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When do you need to call in a financial fitness expert? Here are 15 instances that could indicate that your balances are getting the better of you and that credit counseling might help:

1. Your credit card balances are rising while your income is decreasing.

2. You are only paying the minimum amounts required on your accounts, or maybe even less than the minimums.

3. You're juggling bills. For example, you apply for another credit card and use cash advances from it to pay an existing card.

4. You have more credit cards than a successful gambler has poker chips.

5. You are at or perilously near the limit on each of your credit cards.

6. You consistently charge more each month than you make in payments.

7. You are working overtime to keep up with your credit card payments.

8. You don't know how much you owe and really don't want to find out.

9. You have received phone calls or letters about delinquent bill payments.

10. You are using your credit card to buy necessities like food or gasoline.

11. Your credit cards are no longer used for the sake of convenience, but because you don't have money.

12. You are dipping into savings or your IRA to pay your monthly bills.

13. You are hiding the true cost of your purchases from your spouse.

14. You're playing the card game by signing up for every credit card that sends you an unsolicited offer.

15. You have just lost your job, or are fearful that you are about to, and are concerned about how you will pay all your bills.

(continued on next page)

-- Updated: June 22, 2006
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2004 Debt Guide
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