About 77 percent of Americans carried some form of debt in 2016, according to the Federal Reserve. Given the prevalence of debt, how do we know when we have too much of it?
“You really know you have too much debt when you’re maxed out on your available cash flow,” said Bob Toomey, vice president at S.R. Schill & Associates, a wealth-management firm on Mercer Island.
A maxed-out cash flow means you only have enough money to make the minimum payments on your credit cards. You probably also run out money every month, among other things.
Another way to gauge your debt load is to do the math.
Add up your monthly debt payments and divide it by your monthly gross income, with the result expressed as a percentage. That’s your debt-to-income ratio.
Financial planners use guidelines that recommend limiting total debt — credit cards, mortgages, student loans, the works — to no more than 36 percent of gross monthly income.
“Debt can be a good thing,” Toomey said. “But it can be bad if it gets too heavy.”