Digging Out Of Debt

Editor's Update, June 8, 2007: In June 2007 Dabney Oliver reported she had turned the corner on her consumer debt, and following advice from a financial planner was contributing to a 401K retirement plan. She had also cut her credit card debt by more than a third and was within months of paying it off altogether.


In our series this week on credit card debt, we've shown you some of the risks and offered some suggestions on how to avoid getting into debt.

CBS News correspondent Trish Regan now reports on how to get out of debt once you're in the trap.

Dabney Oliver is 31 years old, single and carrying $13,000 in credit card debt.

"I look at my budget and it's really tight, you know. It's just like paycheck to paycheck," Oliver says.

Working for an advertising agency in San Francisco, her take-home pay is barely enough to cover expenses — which include $600 a month on her credit card debt.

The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the most expensive places in the country. So keeping up with the Joneses here is even harder. It's one reason why so many are tempted to charge their credit cards to the max.

"I would just like to be out of debt, you know, more than anything because I think that would give me so much more freedom to do the things I want to do," Oliver says.

A good first step "out" of the debt trap: find a financial planner. Regan brought Dabney Oliver to David Yeske for some financial training.

"If you think you're the only one suffering, look around you. Probably a majority of the people walking by you when you walk down the street have more credit card debt than they can comfortably handle," Yeske says. "People talk about credit cards as being dangerous, and they are."

  • The first thing a planner advises people to do? Pay off the highest rate card before all others.

  • If you're a home owner, shift credit card balances to a home equity line of credit — the interest is lower and it's tax deductible.

  • Finally, try to use credit cards only if you can pay them off each month.

    "These cards look well-behaved," says Yeske of Oliver's cards. "That could change."

    In Oliver's case, she has become an expert at "flipping" – switching balances to cards with super low introductory rates.

    "Because I've kept my credit so good, they give me lots of offers so I'm good at, like, doing the flip around," she says.



    Debt Trap Series Part One l Part Two



    But if you miss a payment, interest rates can soar.

    "To some degree, the rates are almost predicated upon human frailty," says Yeske. "On average, I'm sure they are collecting more than 3 percent or zero percent."

    But since Oliver's rates are so low, Yeske told her to pay a little less on her cards because he wants her to do what everyone should do: save for retirement and save for an emergency fund.

    "I think she's going to be able to do it. I would bet money on it," Yeske says.

    Oliver says she is on plan now and believes she can follow it. "Oh, I know I can."

    If she follows this plan, in three years, she'll be debt free.
    • Sean Alfano

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