HOUSTON - 42% of Americans racked up more credit card debt since the pandemic began. A credit counselor can usually help you get out of debt faster than on your own, but most people don't seek help.
Only 8% of people who need debt advice seek help, according to a Longborough University study.
Credit counselors say their clients average $20,000 in debt, but have helped people pay off much bigger amounts.
"When I look back on it, I think how in the world did I ever pay that off?" said 70-year-old Suzanne Black.
Black is now back in the black after digging out from $63,000 in credit card debt in just under five years.
"I inherited some of this debt through the marriage and then we divorced in 1999. The other part of it was being a single mother of two children," she explained.
Black turned to non-profit credit counselor Money Management International.
"That pressure of, Oh my gosh, there is no way I can retire with this debt," she worried as she approached retirement.
MMI persuaded her creditors to settle for smaller amounts, saving her big money.
"Went down from $143,000, what it would have been, what I would have paid long term, down to $51,560," said Black.
And MMI set her up on a monthly budget and payment plan.
"It was about $1,270 a month that I paid, and it just worked so smoothly from that point on," she said.
Black said she had to learn to track her spending better but was still able to take a few vacations during that time.
"There are places you can turn to, that are confidential, to talk about what your options are and come up with an action plan to overcome that challenge," said Thomas Nitzsche with MMI.
Nitzsche says most people with debt don't realize they can get low-cost, confidential help.
"Our average client is debt-free in 42 months," he said.
Black says she boosted her credit score 150 points and worked one additional year before retiring this year.
"And actually celebrated with my family in February of this year. Got it all paid off!" she smiled.
MMI helped another local woman pay off $100,000 in debt.