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By Jeanette Joy Fisher
Before you whip out your credit card, stop and think. America is often called a consumer society, and it’s true. We’re also a nation of credit card debt, which is evidenced by some of these startling facts.
We all know that acquiring overwhelming debt is stressful from a financial standpoint. However, it might surprise you to know that more than 70 percent of divorces in America are brought about due to financial problems.
One thing Americans are NOT is savers. We simply don’t put away enough money to protect us in the case of financial emergency. In fact, the average American consumer carries so much debt load that they’re a mere three paychecks away from having to declare bankruptcy.
Financial emergencies arise all the time, of course, but Americans continue to build up credit card debt, without thought of the possible consequences. That’s why nearly 1,500,000 people in the United States are forced to file for bankruptcy every year. Another 1,500,000 people will turn to the various consumer credit counseling organizations for help in order to try to avert bankruptcy. That’s a staggering number, but it’s dwarfed in comparison to the 37,000,000 people who endeavor to work out plans with their creditors on their own. That’s 40 million people a year who are in enough financial trouble to take drastic action!
How do people get in such horrible financial condition? One way is through the use of credit cards. They may be convenient, but they certainly make consumers pay more for the merchandise they buy. For instance, a person paying for a purchase with a credit card will pay, on average, more than 130 percent for that item than if they had simply paid cash for it.
A large majority of consumer only pay the minimum payment on their charge cards, but those payments are generally 90 percent interest, with only 10 percent going toward reducing the principal. A staggering 71% of all credit card holders pay only the minimum payment, and they do it without a thought to the consequences. If they can easily afford the monthly payment, they just keep paying it, without realizing how expensive their purchases ultimately have become.
If you are one of the millions of Americans who are only paying the minimum amount on your charge cards, start paying MORE each month. Even if it’s only a little more. Reducing the principal balance will shorten your overall payment schedule–sometimes by hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
The statistics are mind-boggling, and with interest rates headed even higher, you must educate yourself on the wise use of credit, pay cash whenever possible, and try to live within your means, even if it means doing without some things. It’s the only way you can avoid becoming one of those sad financial statistics yourself. Include monitoring your credit card use in your New Year’s Resolutions.
Copyright Jeanette J. Fisher
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