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Americans' debt burden mounts

In the midst of a still-slow economy - unemployment hit 4.9 percent Friday, its highest level in almost four years - Americans are finding it harder to make ends meet. Three new statistics from the second quarter of 2001 back that up:

• US commercial banks wrote off $2.8 billion in credit card debt, up nearly 27 percent from a year earlier, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

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• The Mortgage Bankers Association of America reports that 4.63 percent of mortgage payments were more than 30 days overdue, up from 4.37 in the first quarter. The percentage of mortgages in the foreclosure process reached 0.91 percent.

• A record 400,394 bankruptcies were filed, up 24.5 percent from the previous year, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute.

Almost 6.5 percent of adults in the US filed for bankruptcy in the 12-month period ending June 30, points out Myvesta.com, a debt-counseling group. "Financial problems are a symptom of underlying life issues," says the group's president Steve Rhode. "Unless you address those issues, money problems will continue."

Those with debt problems can call the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Southern New England (800-208-2227) Sept. 13 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST. for free advice from credit counselors.