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Resist the Impulse to Panic Over Finances
your debt payments? Are you relying on debt to keep up with your lifestyle?

Consumers, Mr. McBride said, have been drawing on credit in recent years, but some “are finding that the well has run dry.” He suggested that you “ask yourself whether you can honestly afford the lifestyle you’re living.”

A good indicator that things are going in the wrong direction, he said, is if your credit card balance has been rising in the last year but your savings balance has been falling.

“As interest rates are on the decline, it serves as a real tail wind to debt repayment,” Mr. McBride said. “More of each dollar goes to principal rather than to the interest. So each dollar goes further as interest rates fall.”

Now, what about investments? First, experts say, consumers should confirm that their investments are covered by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation, an independent organization set up by Congress in 1970.

If a brokerage firm or other insured firm fails, the investor corporation covers $500,000 of a customer’s

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