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What is the story behind Orlando's drop in consumer debt?

In 2013, consumer debt rose across most of the U.S. but not here in Florida. In fact, in Orlando, Miami and Tampa Bay, consumer debt dropped last year, according to a recent report by Equifax. These three cities are among just four of the top 25 metros where consumer debt did not increase last year. While that might sound like good news for Floridians, those statistics do not tell a complete story.

Unfortunately, these findings do not mean that Florida residents are actually becoming any better able to handle and pay down debt. Equifax believes that Floridians posted declining consumer debt only because so many people lost their mortgages to foreclosure in 2013.

In Miami-Fort Lauderdale, the increase in credit card debt alone was more than 3 percent.

Equifax reported that non-mortgage debt rose in those Florida cities. Equifax does report this trend as a positive thing, claiming that consumers are becoming more confident in their financial security, leading them to take on more debt.

Reports like this one are reminders that many Orlando residents do struggle with unmanageable amounts of debt. Some people are barely able to make minimum payments. Others are screening their calls to avoid talking to creditors. Some people may even be experiencing threats of wage garnishment. Those who are overwhelmed by debts and bills might be wise to talk to a bankruptcy attorney about their options to discharge or reorganize debts. Bankruptcy can offer those who qualify a clean break from creditor harassment and a fresh financial start. It is not the best solution for everyone, however, and this is one reason why it can be important to seek legal counsel.

Source: Tampa Bay Times, "Consumer debt drops in Florida metros, likely due to lost mortgages," Jeff Harrington, March 6, 2014

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