Some Financial Advice for DFW’s Debt-Burdened Residents

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The explosive economic growth in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is contributing to soaring consumer debt across the region.

DFW residents face an average annual inflation rate of 5.3%, as previously reported by The Dallas Express, and maintain the second-highest consumer debt in the nation.

This budgetary tug-of-war is leaving many overwhelmed and underwater, according to a 2023 study by LendingTree.

While mounting debt can be a nightmare, it is not impossible to fix. The Dallas Express spoke with Northwestern Mutual financial advisor John Vehslage about how DFW residents can start to improve their financial situation.

According to Vehslage, the first step is finding someone reliable to talk to, whether a friend, family member, mentor, or financial professional.

“It’s kind of like a personal trainer,” Vehslage said.

“People with a personal trainer are usually held accountable, making them more likely to eat healthier, train harder, and all that stuff. It’s the same thing with finances. You just want to have people around you who can help you, that you trust, and who have your best interest in mind,” Vehslage told The Dallas Express.

The issue is that once people fall into debt, it can be challenging to stop the bleeding. If it is not stopped, that is when it can start to snowball on top of itself, Vehslage explained.

Due to soaring grocery costs, high car prices, pesky student loan repayments, and credit card rates, DFW residents faced an average consumer debt of $45,541 in 2023, about $6,000 more than the average non-mortgage debt level of $39,713 seen across the 50 largest U.S. metros, according to LendingTree’s report.

While everyone’s financial situation differs, Vehslage recommends that people with a heavy debt burden start by staying vigilant with their monthly credit card payments and try creating a savings plan for emergencies.

From what Vehslage has seen over the years, credit card debt and interest rates are the two biggest things impacting DFW residents financially.

Vehslage’s number one recommendation for DFW residents was to “put everything out there.”

“The biggest thing is getting an idea of where you are with your finances, so either get them typed out or written down,” advised Vehslage. “By diagnosing where someone is [financially], an advisor can get a better idea of how to solve the problem.”

“The next thing is then just coming up with a game plan of, ‘Okay, how am I going to get out of the consumer debt within some sort of realistic timeframe,’” Vehslage explained.

“I think it’s good to put the target there,” he concluded.

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