Q: I have a home equity line of credit (HELOC) that my husband and I had to open in 2001 to pay for a business loan when my husband’s business fell apart after the terrorist attacks of September 11th.

The amount we owe is $76,000, and the HELOC carries a variable interest rate. Do you think we should refinance our home and put this HELOC into our primary loan? Or is there a better option to get rid of this horrible variable rate.

A: I’m not against variable rate loans — it just depends what the interest rate is, and where it’s going over the next few years.

If you stacked up a fixed-rate mortgage versus an adjustable rate mortgage over the past 10 years, you’d have saved thousands of dollars on the ARM because interest rates have stayed super-low.

But now interest rates are beginning to rise, so I can understand your concern that your home equity line of credit could become increasingly expensive. It’s also possible that when your husband’s business died, your credit history and credit score nosedived as well.

And the question you need to answer now is about your credit score. How badly did your husband’s business impact your credit? Did you stop making payments, or pay bills late? Have you been paying on time since 2001? If not, you may have a hard time refinancing your home loan into something with a lower payment.

You might want to look at refinancing the home equity line of credit into a fixed-rate home equity loan. But if your credit is bad, that interest rate will also be high.

Pull a copy of your credit score and then talk to a few lenders about which option might be right for you.