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Financial hazard – when credit card debt exceeds savings

Credit card debt can be extremely difficult to escape, and according to a new report from Bankrate.com, that debt outweighs savings for nearly a quarter of U.S. consumers.

savings
(yasick, ThinkStock

The survey, conducted through telephone interviews with a random sample of American adults, found 24 percent have more credit card debt than emergency savings.

Retired state employee Christine Leverence of Hamilton said she’s in the same boat. Too many purchases went on plastic, and her emergency fund won’t cover those bills.

“I’m trying to resolve that right now,” she said. “I’m trying to refinance and get the interest rate down and pay off my credit cards and live happily ever after.”

The amount of debt is significantly greater than the amount of savings for Kathleen Smith of Toms River as well, but credit cards aren’t the culprit.

“Life is expensive in New Jersey — the mortgage, cost of living,” she said. “I can’t even make myself think about it. It’s so frightening.”

Thirteen percent of respondents said they don’t have any credit card debt or emergency savings.

According to Bankrate.com’s chief financial analyst, Greg McBride, the latest numbers suggest three out of every eight Americans are “teetering on the edge of financial disaster.”

“People between the ages of 30 and 49 are in worst shape, probably because of the expenses associated with raising children and paying a mortgage,” McBride said.

Up 7 points from last year, 58 percent have racked up more savings than credit card debt.

Bo Adams of Bordentown said he “learned the hard away” about the consequences of credit cards, and since then, he has drastically improved his financial situation.

“If I don’t have the money to buy it, I don’t buy it,” he said.

Hamilton Square resident Jeanette Nichols said credit card debt has never outweighed savings because she makes it a goal to never carry a balance.

“It gets paid for that month,” she said.

In a separate Financial Security Index from Bankrate, all five categories saw an improvement over the previous month. Specifically:

  • Twenty-four percent of Americans feel more secure in their jobs than they did a year ago;
  • Reaching a new low, 16 percent say their overall financial situation is worse than last year;
  • Americans are feeling better about their net worth by a small margin;
  • Americans’ thoughts about their debt loads are better than at any point since June 2013;
  • The gap has narrowed between the percentages of Americans who are less comfortable with their savings, compared to those who are more comfortable.

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