Report shows higher debt loads in US

As the U.S economy continues to underperform, many people are struggling to pay their bills. Researchers with the U.S. Census Bureau have examined the country's consumer debts and released a report about the financial health of U.S. consumers.

Fewer households in debt, but debt higher

The U.S. Census Bureau released Household Debt in the U.S.: 2000 to 2011 in March 2013, a report about the debt of the nation's consumers. The report revealed that the number of U.S. households carrying some form of debt fell from 74 percent to 69 percent between 2000 and 2011. However, the median amount of debt that households carried increased during this time from $50,971 to $70,000.

The type of debt that people have amassed has also changed from 2000 to 2011.Credit card debt is down from 51 percent to 38 percent of total debt. Medical bills, student loans and other unsecured debts increased from 11 percent of household debt to 19 percent. The report showed that those under 45 years old had the highest increase in likelihood of holding debt other than credit card debt and the highest increase amount of other debt.

Those between the ages of 35 to 44 years old, 45 to 54 years old and 55 to 64 years old all saw their median debt increase, according to the report. However, those 55 to 64 years old saw the largest relative increase in debt. The report showed that the household debt for those 55 to 64 years old increased by 64 percent between 2000 and 2011. The only age group that saw their likelihood of holding debt increase between 2000 and 2011 was those 65 years old and older. The report showed that the likelihood of holding debt among that age group increased from 41 percent to 44 percent.

Bankruptcy may be an option

Those struggling with household debt may want to consider bankruptcy as an option for regaining financial stability. The automatic stay that goes into effect once a person files a bankruptcy petition can protect a person from creditor harassment and most collection actions while it is in effect - including foreclosure actions. Those facing foreclosure may be able to save their homes by filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy and using their repayment plans to become current in their mortgage payments.

Bankruptcy can help people eliminate most unsecured debt, such as medical bills and credit card debts. While some debts are not dischargeable in bankruptcy, such as student loans and certain tax debts, when people no longer are responsible for the debts they can discharge in bankruptcy they often find they are in a better position to pay their remaining debts.

Talk to a lawyer

Making the decision to file bankruptcy is not something a person should try to do without assistance. The bankruptcy process can be complex, and those who try to go through it alone may end up making mistakes that cost them dearly. If you are overwhelmed with debt and considering bankruptcy, speak with an experienced bankruptcy attorney who can offer guidance.