Borrowing and lending play a huge role in how we interact with money and with each other. A little debt -- paid off on time and in full -- usually poses no problems for our personal finances. But deep debt is a panic-inducing reality for many of us.
So, how can you strike a balance and keep your checkbook in balance at the same time?
Louis Barajas, a personal finance expert and a financial adviser in Los Angeles, says first you have to distinguish between good debt and bad debt.
"There are people on radio/television telling you that you should get rid of all your debt, and that's not true," says Barajas. "I think that there are people around the world who are coming out of poverty because of using debt. People who are coming out of communities like me, out of barrio, that borrowed money to go to college to get good careers going and make good money."
Rather than focusing on numbers, Barajas says you should focus on "how you're spending the money and how it's going to leverage you to actually make more money in the future, whether it's going to be buying investments, investing in yourself and investing in your career -- like education."
Many folks shared their own stories and asked advice about everything from credit scores to credit cards:
- Adam and Emily are a young, married couple, who live in Austin, Texas and write about their struggles paying back the money they owe for a site called Blogging Away Debt. Over the past seven years, the couple has paid off large amound of debt -- about $60,000. But they still have $112,000 to go and want to know how should they approach getting their debt down to a managable amount.
- Justin from Bloomington, Ind., wants to know about the risk of taking out a new credit card. He's seen cards that advertise "no interest for six months" and wonders if they're as good as they sound or too goo to be true.
- After years of owing money, Carrie Smith of Dallas is finally debt-free. She's the author of the blog "Careful Cents" and recently contributed an article to the Huffington Post about how she worked her way out of debt. Now, she wants to share what she's learned with others.
Click play on the audio player above to hear the conversation and advice.