PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The dollar amount on American debt has jumped significantly in a post pandemic world. With many people feeling caught off guard and overwhelmed, 10 On Your Side caught up with experts at Bayport Credit Union to learn more about debt and how we can decrease it.

At a record high of $16.9 trillion at the end of 2022, American household debt is up $2.75 trillion since just 2019. That’s according to the Federal Reserve. Along with growing national numbers, individual households are also feeling the pressure.

What does debt look like on a personal level?

“It’s any amount of money that you owe to someone else or an institution and have to pay back over time,” explained Belinda Aboagye, Bayport Credit Union Financial Educator. “That amount, most of the time, includes interest.”

Aboagye acknowledges debt can be intimidating, but you shouldn’t be embarrassed.

“Yes, you are in debt. A lot of people are in debt,” said Aboagye. “You know you made some mistakes. Probably got overwhelmed or you were not prepared for some financial challenges that hit you. That’s why you’re in debt, but now you’re trying to change that and that’s OK.”

As overwhelming as it may be to sit down and look at, Aboagye says that’s the first, and sometimes the hardest, step. There are ways you can tackle those high interest rates. She recommends two tactics.

“The ‘Snowball’ approach. You rank your debt, you the amount that you owe, from the lowest amount to the highest amount. What you’re going to do is focus the most money that you can to that first debt,” explained Aboagye. “The other option, which is the ‘Avalanche’, same idea, but you’re just ranking it based on the interest rate.”

Again, the experts at Bayport Credit Union wants to remind you that you’re not alone in tackling debt and it’s never too late to reach out to a professional.

“You will thank yourself for taking that first step in the next few years. I’m sure your future self will be like ‘Thank goodness, you took care of it then.'”

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