More and more seniors are carrying debt into retirement in the form or mortgages, credit cards and lines of credit. If you're on a fixed income, it could be a good idea to reduce your debt as soon as possible -- rising interest rates will increase your debt payments and cut into your income.

Do you have a debt problem? You might, if:

  • you can't make your minimum monthly payments on your credit cards,
  • you need credit to pay for basic living expenses,
  • you aren't sure how much you owe,
  • you always seem to have unmanageable debt, and
  • your financial problems are affecting your work or family life.

7 ways to reduce debt

  • Make bigger payments - Don't just make the minimum payment - pay as much as you can.
  • Pay off most expensive debt first - i.e., credit cards, department store cards (those with the highest interest rates)
  • Consider consolidating - Check whether a consolidation loan from your bank might be less costly, and if you can arrange one you only need to make one payment
  • Negotiate - call your bank or credit card company and ask for a better rate to help you shed your debt faster
  • Find extra money - Do you have a budget? Go through your monthly expenses and find anywhere you can cut back to free up cash for paying off your debt faster (i.e., cut out your takeout coffee and you can free up $50 a month to put towards your debt).
  • Talk to your bank early - If you're struggling, talk to your bank and your other creditors to discuss the situation and find out if there are options to help you pay off your debt. Banks are willing to be flexible and help customers make alternative arrangements to repay the money they owe to their bank.
  • Seek help from a not-for-profit credit counselling agency - Consider help from a not-for-profit credit counselling agency, which provides guidance on budgeting and money management and, if necessary, intervention on repaying debts through structured debt management plans.

Pay down debt and increase your cash flow - Tips on how to do from the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

Getting help with debt? Be careful The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) has posted information on its website urging consumers to be cautious of debt settlement companies and their high-pressure sales tactics, unrealistic claims about slashing their debt, misleading information about protecting their credit rating, and false claims about government involvement or approval. The consumer alert is posted to the FCAC website at www.fcac.gc.ca.