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Study: 35 percent of Americans have had a debt in collections

Many Massachusetts residents who are struggling with debt feel alone. In fact, they have a lot of company, and there are options available for helping them overcome their financial challenges.

According to one recent report, debt collections show up in the credit reports of 35 percent of American adults. The report, by the Urban Institute think tank, found that, as of last September, 77 million Americans owed an average of $5,200.

The study examined credit reports all over the nation and ranked the states and urban areas in terms of which had the highest numbers of debts in collections. The debts covered in this study consisted of things other than mortgages, such as delinquent credit card bills and medical bills. These debts can stay on an individual's credit report for seven years.

Surprising no one familiar with the cost of living in Massachusetts, the state ranked high on the list. Other areas on the coasts, where housing is at a premium, also ranked high. However, Nevada ranked at the top of the list, with 47 percent. Among urban areas, Boston ranked near the bottom of the list, with only 22.4 percent.

It's easy to get in over one's head with debt. A person may try to get away with paying minimum payments every month, only to find that the outstanding balance quickly gathers interest.

When this happens, reputable professionals can help consumers to assess their options for debt relief, including consumer bankruptcy, when necessary. Massachusetts attorneys with experience in debt relief can help consumers get out of debt traps and back on a more secure financial footing.

Source: Accounting Today, "Over a Third of Americans Have a Debt in Collections," Michael Cohn, July 30, 2014

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