How much money do I owe?

Ask the Experts: What do I owe?

How can I find out how much I owe and who I owe? –Inithio

Hi Inithio,

For some people it may seem strange to not know how much money you owe in debt, or worse, to not know where that money is owed. But for those struggling with debt, it’s incredibly common to lose track of your debts.

In fact, it’s one of the more common symptoms of out-of-control debt. As the debt – and corresponding debt payments - exceeds what we can reasonably pay back, we begin turning our backs on all of it. We don’t believe we can do anything about it, so we toss out our bills as they come in and stop answering the phone.

Once we’re ready to face down our debt, we have to figure out exactly what that debt looks like.

The easiest way to begin is to order copies of your credit reports. I say credit reports – plural – because there’s more than one, and they may not all contain the same information.

Essentially, there are three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. For the most part, they should all contain the same information, however, it’s up to each creditor to provide that information to the credit reporting agencies. A creditor may neglect to send information to one or more of the reporting agencies. A creditor may also send updates less frequently, meaning one reporting agency has slightly more up-to-date information than the other agencies.

So if you’re pulling reports in order to piece together a complete picture of your current debt, you’re better off pulling your report from at least two reporting agencies, if not all three.

All three major reporting agencies are required to provide consumers with a free copy of their report once every year. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to order your report (or reports.)

Each report looks a little different. Your accounts may be separated by open, closed, adverse, or satisfactory statuses. There will usually be a separate category for accounts that have been charged off and sent to collections.

Each account listing should include contact information for the creditor, including address and phone number. It’s a good idea to reach out to the creditor directly in order to get the most accurate information about your account’s current status.

As always, if you’re having a hard time getting things started on your own, we’re here to help. Our trained counselors can pull your credit report for you and help you sort out your current debts, including your best options for handling that debt.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, focused on creating and delivering valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

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