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The average American consumer is inundated with more than 3,000 marketing messages every day.

That has contributed, at least in part, to the fact that today roughly 24 percent of personal expenditures are made with credit and debit cards.

And as one result of that, the average per household debt, not counting mortgage debt, is about $14,500.

What's more, there's no end in sight. In fact, some 40 percent of American families admit they annually spend more than they earn.

With statistics like those, it's no wonder many of us feel we're in too deep. But digging out requires that we first recognize that a problem exists and reflect on how we got so heavily in debt.


2004 Debt Guide
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30 yr fixed mtg 3.54%
15 yr fixed mtg 2.72%
5/1 jumbo ARM 3.26%
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In too deep

Debt load analyzer -- Unless you're debt free, it can be difficult to determine if your debt is a minor or major problem. Take this interactive quiz to get a handle on your situation.

Top 10 hidden dangers of credit cards -- You can avoid getting squeezed by your credit card company if you're aware of these money-grabbing tricks.

Installment vs. revolving credit -- You won't consider debt a four-letter word if you use it wisely. First, learn the difference between installment loans and revolving credit.

Top 10 causes of debt -- You know you're in debt, but may be uncertain exactly how you got there. Bankrate's Debt Adviser Steve Bucci lists the top 10 causes.

15 signs you need help with your debt -- Many who are weighed down with debt opt first for self-help. But sometimes you just can't do it alone. Here's how to tell when you need to call in a financial fitness expert.

Do you need help? -- We've gathered the most frequently asked questions about debt and credit counseling. They should help you on your way to a more stable financial future.


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