Most Americans hold some kind of debt—from mortgages and auto loans to credit card debt and student loans. The average American is in debt by about $51,900 across all types, according to Business Insider. And the debt categories with the largest average balances are (in order): mortgages, student loans, and auto loans.

Borrowing money can be used for several valuable additions to our lives: education, cars, houses, etc. It also may be the only option available for unexpected necessities, like medical bills or house/car repairs. That being said, many people who have consumer debt (i.e. not business or government debt) feel like it’s a heavy burden they carry.

Some studies even show that people who struggle to pay off their debts experience more symptoms of anxiety and depression. Debt can also be a source of shame about past financial mistakes or an income that doesn’t feel high enough relative to it. Having debt can also lead to frustration and a sense of helplessness when you know interest is mounting and compounding.

That’s why reaching debt-free status or paying off certain types of debt represents freedom and relief for many people. Paying off your debt in advance of your set terms decreases the overall interest amount you pay on your principal debt (in some cases by a big chunk of cash) and can restore greater financial peace and a sense of security.

If you’re currently paying the minimum payment on your debts and would like to accelerate reaching that end goal, starting with a strategic plan is a wise move. Having a roadmap helps you regain control in the face of what can seem very daunting and overwhelming. Plus, it adds transparency into your situation, gives you concrete steps to tackle, and paves the way for you to spot visible progress.

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