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Unmanageable Debt? How to Get Help
CNBC.com | March 16, 2012 | 02:19 PM EDT

With unemployment and home foreclosures still unusually high, consumer debt remains a major problem for many Americans.

When it comes to correcting debt problems, a plethora of options exist. For lower levels of debt under $5,000, self-help tactics such as reducing expenses, paying more than the minimum payments and transferring your debt balance to a zero-percent credit card are effective.

But for larger debt levels totaling half or more of your annual income, more drastic measures are needed, including seeking help through a debt-management plan from a credit counselor, attending community events focusing on debt reduction, or in some cases, claiming bankruptcy.

Open communication with your lender is helpful when trying to solve debt woes on your own.

Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, author of The New York Times bestseller "Zero Debt," says negotiating with creditors is still a viable option, even amid the credit crunch. “It’s a smart and savvy decision to contact your creditor and ask for a lower interest rate," she says, "especially if you have good credit, you have been a customer for years, and have paid on time in the past.” Lower interest rates result in lower monthly payments, making the process faster and easier.

“Creditors don’t want to lose your business and would rather get some interest than nothing,” she adds.

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