Are we too embarrassed, unaware or a combination of both?

Huntstock, ThinkStock
Huntstock, ThinkStock

According to a NerdWallet analysis of federal government data, American consumers are greatly underreporting how much credit card debt they're facing.

All together, after comparing 2013 Federal Reserve lender and borrower numbers, consumers reported about $415 billion less than what they actually owed. The statistics suggest Americans acknowledged less than half of the debt on the books - $683 billion.

"Some people, when asked, they may not be aware of all the credit card that they have outstanding," said Maury Randall, head of the finance department at Rider University, responding to the analysis.

But it's very likely a good portion of this underreporting was done intentionally.

Randall said it's easy to understand why consumers may be hesitant to share their debt load with a government agency. They may fear the information would get in the wrong hands, and it'll be used against them.

Shame could be a factor as well. Randall said some people may be too embarrassed to share the real number or they may view their credit card debt as a sign of weakness.

"They may feel that others may think that they're not being smart or they're not controlling themselves in terms of the way that they're handling their money," Randall said. "It's a bad way of borrowing."

According to a NerdWallet survey, 70 percent of Americans suggest there is a greater stigma around credit card debt than any other form of debt, such as student loans and mortgages. About 35 percent considered credit card debt to be "embarrassing," and a quarter said they'd judge a friend or family member for having credit card debt.

For those households with debt, $15,355 of it is thanks to credit card debt, according to NerdWallet.


More From New Jersey 101.5 FM