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Let's talk about that dreaded word credit. How many credit cards do you have? Can you pay off the balance each month? Credit is the ability to borrow money with the understanding that it will be paid later. Let's break it down further. Credit means receiving something of value now and promising to pay for it later and in most instances, with a fee called a finance charge by the lender. Credit cards make spending easy and may encourage you to spend more than you can repay. Listed are some possible warning signs that you are using too much credit and it is recommended for financial counseling to initiate a plan of action to reduce debt:

1. Less than one month's take-home pay in savings.

2. Can only afford the minimum monthly payments on credit cards.

3. Falling behind on payments and receiving late notices.

4. At or near credit limits on credit cards most of the time.

5. Debt-to-income ratio more than 20 percent.

If you fall within any of the examples below, you have reached the critical point of credit abuse and financial counseling is essential to establish a plan to reduce debt to a manageable level.

1. Rotating bills

2. Borrowing or getting cash advance to make payments - using credit to pay credit.

3. Being denied additional credit due to problems on credit reports.

4. Seeking additional debt from predatory lending sources, such as payday loans or refund anticipation loans.

5. Having to rely on debt-consolidation loans to reduce payments enough to meet monthly living expenses.

To manage your debt, ensure you use credit wisely by not becoming over-extended and being aware of your debt. We all want excellent credit scores and to achieve this goal we must pay our bills on time and if you carry a balance, pay as much as you can each month. You can receive a free copy of your credit report annually by visiting

If you need assistance in managing your debt, some sources of help are nonprofit consumer credit counseling agencies, The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and your local credit union financial counselors. For military members, services such as Fleet and Family Support Center, your legal service office, Military OneSource, and your Command Financial Specialists are available and awaiting to assist you. #SPEAK2MYHEART

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