Free Debt Analysis

Contact us at 1-888-503-5563

A reader has as much debt as income. He's out of the country. Can he still get out of debt?

2 minute read

Question: I live abroad, but I read your articles every now and then to enlighten my knowledge on how exactly getting out of debt. How do you start? I have two credit cards that are basically maxed out. I’m not behind but its getting harder and harder to make my payments. I still use them because as soon as I make my payments, I’m out of money. Any advice?

— S. in Panama

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

If your credit cards were opened in the United States, and if you pay them monthly in dollars, I have good news: You can avail yourself of all the American debt programs just like everyone inside the United States.

This isn’t uncommon for U.S. military personnel, and it also happens with U.S. citizens on assignment overseas for their work. I’ve even seen it happen with residents of upstate New York who move to Canada.

Then again, if you opened your credit cards in Panama, or if you pay them in Panamanian Balboas, you wouldn’t qualify for a debt management program offered in this country.

However, no matter where you live in the world, and no matter how you pay your bills, any nonprofit credit counseling agency will still offer you thorough credit counseling with a certified credit counselor.

My guess is that you’ll qualify for a debt management program. While you don’t indicate exactly how much you owe, a big red flag is that your income is only enough to cover your credit card balances.

I urge you (and anyone in your situation) to read Debt Consolidation: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know. You’ll learn some tips for helping ease your burden, although nothing compares to getting professional advice.

One related question I have for you, S: Do you have student loans, an auto loan, or a mortgage? You might wonder what this has to do with your credit card balances. But if you’re making other loan payments, getting rid of those frees up more money to apply to those credit cards.

For instance, if your student loan payments are steep, and they’re the typical federal loans most U.S. students have, there are special programs backed by the government that can reduce and will eventually eliminates your monthly payments.

If you have an auto loan, I’ll suggest something dramatic: Trade down. Sell the car if you can get back at least what you owe, then buy the most reliable vehicle you can. Finally, if you don’t have a monthly budget, make one. The most painless way to do so is using a secure online tool like Mint or Powerwallet.

Whatever you do, S., don’t do nothing. The longer you wait, the worse debt gets. That’s true no matter where you live.

Have a debt question?

Email your question to editor@debt.com and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.

Did we provide the information you needed? If not let us know and we’ll improve this page.
Let us know if you liked the post. That’s the only way we can improve.
Yes
No

About the Author

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

I’m a certified public accountant who has authored two books on getting out of debt, Credit Hell and Power Up, and I am one of the personal finance experts for Debt.com. I have focused my professional endeavors in the consumer finance, technology, media and real estate industries creating not only Debt.com, but also Financial Apps and Start Fresh Today, among others. My personal finance advice has been included in countless articles, and has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes and Entrepreneur as well as virtually every national and local newspaper in the country. Everyone should have a reason for living that’s bigger than themselves, and besides my family, mine is this: Teaching Americans how to live happily within their means. To me, money is not the root of all evil. Poor money management is. Money cannot buy happiness, but going into debt always buys misery. That’s why I launched Debt.com. I’m glad you’re here.

Published by Debt.com, LLC