Americans racked up more than $92 billion in credit card debt in 2017
Updated: March 11, 2018
You can take this to the bank: Americans are messed up about money.
A slew of new surveys and data have come out revealing that we don’t save enough, we spend money we don’t have, we have our financial priorities backwards — and more. Here are five new stats that prove Americans are backwards about money.
We have record high debt.
We’re living on credit:”U.S. consumers racked up $92.2 billion in credit card debt during 2017, pushing outstanding balances past $1 trillion for the first time ever,” according to WalletHub’s latest Credit Card Debt Study, based on Federal Reserve data released in March. What’s more, nearly one in four Americans (21%) say they have more credit card debt than emergency savings, according to data released in 2018 by Bankrate.
The fix: One of the simplest, and most effective, ways to pay down debt is this: Pay down as much as you can on your highest interest-rate debt (likely your credit cards), and the minimums on all others, until you’ve paid down every debt. To pay down these debts as fast as possible, look for simple ways to save money each month like these, so you can put that towards your debt.
More than half of Americans have less than $1000 in savings.
About six in 10 Americans (61%) say they don’t even have enough savings to cover a $1,000 emergency like a visit to the ER or car repair, according to a Bankrate.com report released earlier this year. And data from 2017 from GoBankingRates.com found that 39% say they literally have nothing in their savings accounts. What’s more, the Bankrate data found that nearly one in five Americans who don’t have enough emergency savings (19%) would have to put that unexpected expense on a credit card and finance it over time, 12% would borrow from family or friends, and 5% would take out a personal loan.
The fix: Experts recommend that Americans have a least three to six months of income in the bank to pay for unexpected emergencies. Try these seven kickass savings habits that can help you rack up that money.
We are more worried about paying for our next vacation than about saving enough for retirement.
That’s the finding of a study released recently by COUNTRY Financial, in which Americans report being more concerned about affording that vacation (36%) than having adequate retirement savings (32%). That may explain, in part, why more than half of Americans will be broke when we retire, according to a survey from GoBankingRates.com.
The fix: It’s simple: You must save for retirement. First up, if you have a 401(k) or retirement plan at work, contribute to it — at least up to what your employer matches and ideally more. This handy guide can help you figure out exactly how much to save for retirement at different points in your life.
Millions of us hide money from our spouses and partners.
An estimated 12 million Americans confess they have kept a source of money secret from their romantic partners, according to CreditCards.com. That’s typically not smart, experts say: “Any time you get into these kinds of things where you are operating behind the scenes, it usually comes out at some point,” Corey Allan, a marriage and family therapist told Credit Cards.com. “We can’t keep things hidden, especially in today’s technological world. Any spouse who has any kind of suspicion can become a detective and find it.” (Also see: If you have sex with a rich millennial, expect this power dynamic.)
We prioritize paying the wrong bills first.
When we can’t pay all our bills, we make bad choices about which to pay. “Consumers in financial distress tend to prioritize unsecured personal loans ahead of other credit products such as auto loans, mortgages and credit cards,” according to a study of roughly two million consumers who had all four types of debt out this year from credit monitoring service TransUnion. But experts say that’s a backwards way to handle these bills.
The fix: Ideally, of course, you pay all your bills all the time. But if you can’t pay all your bills, you should first pay secured debts like your mortgage and car loan, experts say. After that, tackle credit cards and personal loans.
This story was originally published in May 2017 and has since been updated.
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