A lender sometimes requires you to “secure” a loan with your car, house or other asset. If you fail to repay a secured debt, the lender can legally take this item. Unsecured debt is money you owe that’s not backed by any specific property. Most people have at least some unsecured debt outstanding at any given time. A creditor must sue you before going after any of your property to collect an unpaid unsecured debt. You can calculate your total unsecured debt to figure out how much you’re on the hook for.
Add your outstanding credit card balances to determine your total credit card debt. Use the balances from each of your most recent statements. Exclude any credit cards for which you’ve coughed up a deposit or that require you to maintain a minimum balance in a bank account. For example, assume you have a $2,000 balance on one credit card and $500 on another. Add these to get $2,500 in credit card debt.
Add the balance of your student loans or unsecured personal loans, such as those from a relative or bank. In this example, assume you have $10,000 in student loans and a $1,000 unsecured personal loan. Add these to get $11,000 in unsecured loans.
Add the outstanding balances you owe for any services you’ve received, such as cable or satellite TV, cell phone service, medical care or utilities. Exclude any services for which you paid an up-front deposit. In this example, assume you owe $100 for a cable bill, $100 for a cell phone bill and $150 for utilities. You owe $350 total in outstanding bills.
Add the amount of any other unsecured money you owe, such as overdue federal and state income taxes or court judgments. Exclude any items for which a creditor has garnished your wages or attached a lien, or legal claim, to your property. In this example, assume you owe $1,000 in back federal taxes and $250 in state taxes. Your total other unsecured debt is $1,250.
Add together your total credit card debt, total unsecured loans, total outstanding bills and Step 4 result to determine your total unsecured debt. Concluding the example, add $2,500, $11,000, $350 and $1,250 to get $15,100 in total unsecured debt.
- Interest rates on unsecured debt, such as credit cards, are typically higher that those on secured debt, such as a mortgage. This interest compensates unsecured creditors for bearing more risk. Reducing your high-interest unsecured debt can save you big money over the long haul.
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