If you rarely bust out your credit card, I hope you enjoy that rarified air. For everyone else, credit card debt is a huge problem in the U.S.
However, all debt is not created equal. In fact, having a little debt can actually be a benefit. It’s when you get in over your head that things become an issue.
Who Uses Credit Cards
It might seem like everyone uses credit cards, rich, poor, old, young. While the majority of people definitely do use credit cards, there are quite a few people who don’t even have any.
The demographics of credit card use may surprise you a bit when you consider the stereotypes and misconceptions that often float about the subject.
A little under 2/3 of adults have credit cards. Less than half of adults between 18 and 25 have them. As opposed to a whopping 87% of people over 65.
It is often believed that poorer people gravitate towards credit cards as a means of spending money they don’t have. However, research has proven this belief false. Ownership rates only get higher as income increases. Only around 42% of people earning less than $25,000 a year have credit cards, compared to the 91% of those making over $100,000 a year.
The disparity is even greater when it comes to levels of education. 90% of people who finish college and/or graduate programs have credit cards. On the flip side, only 33% of those who never finished high school carry cards.
What does all this tell us? Basically, the more money you have, the more money you’re willing to owe. But, this doesn’t seem like groundbreaking news. Let’s see if the debt statistics support the assessment.
Who’s in the most Debt?
$4,560 is the average American credit card balance. Unlike credit card ownership, balance amounts don’t just increase with age. While young people do tend to have the lowest balances, people over 65 are right behind them.
It’s middle-aged people who bear the brunt of credit card debt. The highest group belongs to the 45-54 crowd with an average balance of $6,250. That’s well over the overall average.
The reality is that much of the credit card debt in the country doesn’t come from irresponsibility. The people who make the most money have the ability to take out the most debt, and they do.
When Debt Becomes a Problem
Remember how we said all debt isn’t created equal. Well, there’s the credit card debt that you pay off every month as it comes. Then there’s the credit card debt that you only pay the minimum for each month, while you continue to use it. This is the kind of debt that can get you in trouble. Mostly because you’re spending way more in interest than you would have otherwise.
It’s called revolving debt and almost half of all credit card holders have it. It disproportionally affects those with lower incomes as it is more difficult for them to pay off their balances. It can be hard to dig yourself out of debt like this. The best way is to not get into it at all. But, if you already have, stop spending money you don’t (or soon won’t) have. Wait to use credit cards again until they are paid down. You’ll be amazed at how much you save.