Bill Maurer

Some lenders also allow rent, alimony and other monthly obligations. But many monthly payments for household expenses, such as utilities and groceries, are not included in your DTI ratio because they are not debts. For your credit cards, make sure you include only the minimum payment for each account and not the entire balance. "People often get confused and think it's the total amount of money you owe on your debts," says Bill Maurer, director of the Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion [and professor] at the University of California, Irvine. "It's what you have to pay each month compared to what you receive each month."

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