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"I knew there was no way I could continue to manage my credit card payments and make my loan payments when the forbearance ended," Liss told WalletPop. She knew she had to act while there was still time. She considered bankruptcy, but since most of her debts would still be in place (student loans aren't discharged, and a court order wouldn't erase the family tie that bound her to paying back the $45,000), she had to find another way out.
Luckily, Liss's story has a happy ending. She found a nonprofit credit counseling service that walked her through an all-cash austerity budget that would whittle down her high-interest credit card debts before the student loan bills started rolling in.
"If it wasn't for them, it would have been a full-blown explosion," she says. Liss says the transition was hard -- she had to swear off credit card purchases and make some lifestyle changes -- but the results were so satisfying that she put her entire year-end bonus toward paying off one card entirely. "It was a relief," she says.
Many more Americans have stories like Liss's: rising credit card balances, growing debts and a feeling of helplessness. If you're not aware of how close you're getting to the financial edge, though, it's easy to fall into the abyss. WalletPop tapped some nonprofit credit counselors for their advice (Robert Baker, director of education at Housing and Credit Counseling, Inc. in Topeka, Kansas; Scott Scredon, director of public relations at CredAbility in Atlanta; Sheri Stuart, education manager at Springboard Nonprofit Consumer Credit Management, in Riverside, Calif.; and Gail Cunningham at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling) and created this quiz.
Take it to find out if you're headed for a debt disaster.