How to manage your pandemic debt

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Financial experts say now is a great time to pay off debt and improve your finances.

Credit card companies have become more forgiving during the pandemic, but even with financial help from the government, not every family can afford to pay down bills these days - especially with so many people out of work.

As the economy struggles to recover from the COVID crisis, more Americans are making credit card purchases - and in many instances falling behind on payments.

A recent Pew Research Center survey found nearly half of those who say their financial situation has gotten worse during the pandemic believe it will take them more than three years to get back to where they were pre-COVID.

Credit card debt only compounds the problem.

"First and foremost you got to feed the family so what a lot of people are doing is they're living off of their credit cards and they're creating these high balances and they have no idea how they're going to pay it off," MDW Financial Solutions President Mike Washington.

Financial coach Mike Washington is concerned about the long-term economic impacts of the pandemic.

"I think there's going to be a lot of people especially on the real estate side, I think a lot of people are going to lose homes and I think that there's going to be a lot of people that will be able to purchase homes with having good credit if that makes sense," said Washington.

With that in mind, Washington shared some tips.

"Keep their credit utilization under 30% and if they could do so then they'll be ok, because once you pass that 30% threshold you start to look desperate to the credit bureau and your credit score starts to drop," said Washington.

It's also important to remember you're not alone.

"If you're in a bad place right now just understand you're trying to do the best you can with what you have," said DeVory Darkins of Visalia.

DeVory Darkins was facing financial ruin until he recently sought advice from Washington on how to fix his credit.

"Don't beat yourself over it, it's over with. All you can do is make a plan and I would make a plan with someone with the results you want," said Darkins.

Experts say it's also important to create a budget, pay off the most expensive debt first, and try to pay more than minimum balance when possible.

You can also try sending a formal letter to your creditor explaining the hardships you're facing and requesting debt forgiveness.
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