Credit card debt reached an all-time high last year, as Americans amassed a staggering $930 billion on their credit cards, according to the Federal Reserve.

During a time of unprecedented household debt, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota’s Financial Counseling is working with individuals and families to eliminate their debt and gain control of their finances through debt management plans.

Through these plans, Minnesotans paid back nearly $17.8 million in debt last year. Nearly 90 percent of people served said they improved their financial circumstances and moved closer to their financial goals with help from LSS Financial Counseling. A remarkable 76 percent on a debt repayment plan paid off their debt entirely.

“People we serve often feel overwhelmed by debt and are just trying to stay afloat when their lifeboat has a serious leak,” said Becky Pakarinen, senior director of LSS Financial Counseling. “We can provide immediate relief by breaking it all down into manageable steps and creating a payment plan that includes negotiating lower interest rates so they can pay off debt faster.”

Pakarinen said credit card debt can skyrocket with high interest rates, creating longer-term misery for people who are only able to make minimum payments. And, when Minnesotans are unable to pay minimum balances, credit scores tank – making it difficult to get a home or car loan and sometimes a new job.

What’s causing the rise in credit card debt? One significant trigger is student loans, Pakarinen said. People will often make their monthly student loan payments but charge other day-to-day expenses like groceries or utilities. LSS Financial Counseling offers specialized loan repayment counseling in these instances to help students avoid default and work toward financial wellness.

Other triggers include unexpected medical bills, a lost job, or simply a failure to set a budget and stick to it. Pakarinen said that debt can happen to anyone.

“We know that life happens and there is no judgment from our team,” she said. “We work with people from all income levels to overcome debt and develop a workable plan for each unique situation.”

Learn more about LSS Financial Counseling by calling 888.577.2227 or visit www.lssfinancialcounseling.org.

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