POSTED: Saturday, March 31, 2012 - 1:00pm
UPDATED: Saturday, April 14, 2012 - 1:08pm
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — We've heard plenty about the national debt, and it has left millions across the country struggling with their own financial problems.
A new report shows more than half of American families have more than $75,000 in personal debt.
The Federal Reserve says all that debt adds up ... totaling $11.5 trillion nationwide.
Financial experts here locally say they aren't too surprised.
"I think most families are struggling to find the right ratio of debt to income to be able to purchase the lifestyle they would like to have," said financial advisor Jay Oliver.
With signs of national economic growth, bankruptcy lawyer Amy Ames says on a personal level, it's probably going to take a little more time.
"I don't think its improving on the consumer or small business level yet," Ames said.
She works with clients who are struggling with anywhere from $20,000 in debt ... up to several hundred thousand.
"A lot of credit card debt, medical bills, sometimes they're dealing with IRS, litigation," Ames said.
She's seen a steady increase in foreclosures and bankruptcies here locally, too.
"Sometimes the debt is just unmanageable, and bankruptcy is an option that can give them a fresh start," Ames said.
Many are trying to dig themselves out by downsizing and limiting the amount they borrow.
"Limit your obligations to provide for your mortgage or housing to 20 or 25 percent of your household income," Oliver said. "Auto loans, credit cards, limit that to 10 to maximum of 15 percent."
The good news is ... no matter how big or small your debt is, there's always an option.
"It may not be the most comfortable option, but that's why we have counselors, bankruptcy, to help people get out of situation," Ames said.
Oliver also suggested only borrowing things at appreciate in value like real estate or a home, and avoid debt on things that depreciate in value.
For more debt help, click here .