CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A new report by the Urban Institute shows 42.8% of people living in Charleston have debt in collections.
Lower incomes and lousy credit scores are to blame.
Your credit score may seem like something you can worry about later, but it can affect your chances of getting a car, renting or buying a home or even getting a job.
"We've seen it all," said Jenna Johnson.
Johnson says people who are swamped in debt come from all levels of income.
"We've seen doctors, we've seen the unemployed, so it really ranges," said Johnson.
The Marketing and Development Director works for Family Services in North Charleston.
Johnson said, "We're 125 years old and we offer an array of financial and housing counseling programs."
A report by the Urban Institute revealed that 42.8% of people living in Charleston are being chased by debt collectors.
The average money they owe is over $5,000.
Johnson said, "The company that they owe that money to sends it to collections, it shows up on their credit report. That can stay on there for a very long time, up to seven years or more."
Your chances of making more money could also go down as your credit score drops.
"Employers look at credit reports. They have every right to look at that if you sign off on it during a job interview. So if it's between you and another guy, then they may choose the other guy if that person has a better credit history," said Johnson.
Johnson says the first step to avoiding debt is simple. Don't overdo it; just create a budget you can maintain.
"Learning how to live off the paycheck that you're given. A lot of people want that American dream, but they have to work toward that American dream," said Johnson.
Family Services offer financial coaching if you need help budgeting or improving your credit score.
They have a free workshop called Making Ends Meet. It's on the second Thursday of every month.
The percentage of people in Charleston with debt in collections is slightly lower than the state average.
That average is just over 46%.