News stories sometimes appear to contradict each other, especially when they’re reporting on the same issue from a variety of surveys from different sources. For example, a recent online article reported on a study that showed older Americans carry larger balances and paying less on their debt than younger consumers. At the same time, another study written in a competing publication declared that younger Americans have more debt and repay slower than older consumers. Both may be true depending on their perspective.
As a society, we seem to enjoy observing the behavior of others, which is easy to see from the array of magazines on the rack that focus on the lives of others. When it comes to personal finance, we’re interested in knowing how other Americans are doing with their finances and how well we compare – the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ syndrome. But what should matter more is whether the news will spur us to consider our own personal situation and look for ways to improve our finances in a healthy way and learn how to make life financially stable and successful.
Age Does Not Always Equal Wisdom
Overwhelming credit card debt happens to both young and old, both new borrowers and those who have a long credit history. Sometimes **it happens, but the numbers don’t seem to show any correlation with the more experienced or aged individuals having a better handle on their credit and debt. Younger people with few credit experiences are not necessarily going to be more likely to have trouble dealing with their debt than seniors; age or stage in life are not the clearest factors in determining who is better at dealing with credit troubles.
Young people just coming out of college, on average, carry $4,000 of credit card debt, on top of $25,000 in college loans. The average credit card balance of consumers over the age of 25 is more than $7,200. As you move along the age line… even AARP is reporting that 30 percent of retirees view their debt as a problem. With the average interest rate on credit cards at almost 17 percent, even a moderate amount of credit card debt can result in a sizable chunk of money every month, simply in interest.
When compared against those who are living on a fixed income, it’s a logical conclusion that the younger crowd, having more potential to increase income, should be more successful with paying down debt quicker. In addition, lifestyle differences may also account for the higher average balance for older Americans who may be using a credit card to augment limited resources to cover medical expenses, car and home repairs and other emergencies.
There are no shortcuts to resolving debt problems; the only way out is through planning and perseverance. But first you need to honest with yourself about the trouble you’re in. How do you answer the following questions?
• Do you regularly pay late? • Do you have savings and investments? • Can you afford more than the minimum required payments? • Is your mortgage underwater? • Do you use payday loans? • Are you a cosigner for someone?
• Have you been denied a loan application?
Age is not going to stop unexpected things from blindsiding people. The reasons people get into debt may be due to a single incident like an emergency, or a long term life change like losing your job or becoming disabled. In either case, you’ll need to take another look at your budget and re-prioritize the areas where you’re vulnerable, while focusing on paying more on your debt. Whether your young or old a little perseverance and debt relief assistance from the right places and you can learn to manage and avoid debt to get back on financial track…and yes, even old dogs can learn new tricks! Feeling overwhelmed? Spend less, save more not panning out? It may be time for some more straight talk and a little help with making a budget work.
Noreen Ruth is a freelance writer who has provided hundreds of articles on multiple websites and financial blogs. Her articles educate consumers on debt relief services, understanding loans options, popular credit cards and other finance related topics. She specializes in credit and debt-related issues and enjoys educating consumers about the latest rules and regulations, as well as ways to build, improve and maintain good credit.