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Debt figures paint grim picture for many American families

Many families in Kentucky and around the country are sinking deeper into debt just as interest rates begin to creep upward . The U.S. Federal Reserve announced a quarter point rate hike on Dec. 14, and many financial experts predict that there will be several more rate increases in the years ahead. This comes at a time when the average amount of debt owed by U.S. households reached $132,500 and credit card balances climbed to $16,000.

It is the credit card debt that has experts most worried. Increases in wages trail spending growth in four out of eight major categories, and medical expenses, which have increased by 57 percent since 2003, are taking a huge bite out of many family budgets. Total revolving debt in the United States is expected to reach $842 billion by 2019 as more and more families turn to their credit cards to pay for food and other basic needs.

This is where rising interest rates could play a significant role. Consumers in the United States already pay an average of 15.2 percent interest for the convenience of charging their purchases, and a number of modest rate hikes could make even minimum payments unaffordable for many Americans. While consumers may be worried about these financial trends, subprime lenders and debt collectors are expected to flourish in the coming years.

Constant harassment from creditors can make a difficult financial situation almost unbearable, and bill collectors rarely have much sympathy for individuals or families who are struggling to make ends meet. Attorneys with debt relief experience could point out how filing for bankruptcy in most cases puts an immediate end to this kind of harassment and provides the opportunity for a fresh start. They might also explain how bankruptcy differs from alternatives such as debt settlement.

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