SOURCE: Dear Abby

April 19, 2006 11:48 ET

Dear Abby Asks, "What's Behind Your Debt?"

LOS ANGELES, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- April 19, 2006 -- It is no surprise that Americans are in debt. According to the latest statistics on consumer spending from the Federal Reserve, "consumers owe nearly $2 trillion dollars," which translates into approximately $18,654 per household, not including mortgages. Furthermore, approximately 43% of American families spend more than they earn each year and according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, "bankruptcies jumped 30% to nearly 2.1 million last year as debtors rushed to file petitions before new restrictions took effect." The Office reported that the total personal bankruptcies filed in 2005 were 2,078,415, up from 1,597,462 petitions filed in 2004, making this the largest number of bankruptcy petitions ever filed "in any 12-month period in the history of the federal courts."

Dear Abby, the world's most widely syndicated columnist, believes that debt is accrued for several reasons, which include everything from depression to lack of discipline when it comes to saving. "There are so many 'cookies' out there that people are always tempted. You don't need to buy the car that eats gas like a fire-breathing dragon. The idea is to instill in kids the value of saving money," explained Abby.

Abby, who is famous for her down-to-earth advice, said that people must learn to live within their means and save money each month. "Some people spend because it helps lessen their depression, but they'd be better off popping for a therapist and medication." She suggests that if you are a chronic spender, you should consult your doctor a lot of heavy spenders do suffer from depression. Through the years, Abby has heard from many people regarding debt, including irresponsible college kids tempted by the lure of "plastic," to over-spending spouses who try to hide debt from each other. There are also truly unfortunate individuals who have incurred a mountain of debt due to accidents, lay-offs and/or a death in their family.

"Understanding why you overspend is most important," Abby said. "Money is a highly-charged issue and disputes over money are one of the leading causes of divorce. If you can identify why you overspend and are willing to face the real consequences of what that means, you can set up a plan to address it and turn your financial life around."

Abby advises people to learn to live within their means, save some money each week, and to plan for retirement. The younger they start the better. She believes that people need to face reality and that married couples need to address debt immediately and not hide outstanding bills from each other. "Remember that you will not be able to work forever and you won't have psychic freedom if you're too deep in debt," commented Abby. "Choices in life come from being prepared and that includes financial preparedness."

Debtors are encouraged by Abby to seek workable solutions from non-profit groups like The National Foundation for Consumer Credit (NFCC), who provides education and counseling services on budgeting and credit. They can be reached at 800-388-2227, or at www.nfcc.org. Another group to contact is The Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies (AICCCA). To locate the closest office, call (800) 450-1794 or visit www.aiccca.org and click on the "Find a Counseling Agency" link. Debtors Anonymous also offers counseling and emotional support, and be contacted online at www.debtorsanonymous.org or by calling 781-453-2743.

For more information on Dear Abby, visit www.dearabby.com.

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