With so many living paycheck to paycheck, it's easy to see how one misstep or misfortune could quickly send a person's finances into a downward spiral.
And the tough reality hits close to home.
While more than half of Iowans surveyed by the Iowa Credit Union League say they have an emergency savings account, 28.9 percent say their savings will not cover one month of essential expenses, according to the Credit Union National Association.
So what happens when the bills start piling up, and you're left wondering how you're going pay them?
It begins with something as simple as communication, according to Lisa Elskamp, a Member Solutions officer at Dupaco.
"Just call us. No matter what the situation is, don't be embarrassed. We are here to help," she said of her department, which focuses on helping members get back on track. "If there's a solution, we'll find it. Communication is the No. 1 best thing you can do for yourself."
If a member is dangerously close to defaulting on a loan, for instance, Member Solutions can spread the payment over a few months to help the person get back on track without getting too far behind.
The key is being proactive. Call the creditor first. Don't be afraid to explain your situation. And do it right away, because it's much easier – and much less damaging to your credit – to address the problem immediately, before a couple of missed payments start to rack up.
Many consumers don't understand how badly a delinquent loan affects their credit and how long it can take to correct it, Elskamp said.
"A 30-day past due mark is much less harsh than if it gets to 60 or 90 days," she explained.
And if you can work with your creditors directly, you can avoid turning to one of the national credit counseling agencies.
"We really strive to 'cut the middle man' and work with our members one-on-one. When they came in to get the loan, they received the personal attention. We would like to continue to do that through the whole loan process – even when the loan is in trouble," Elskamp said.
"We believe in our members and want to help them regardless of their situation."
By Emily Kittle