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Study reveals older Americans burdened by credit card debt

Many Americans have debt in some form, whether it is a mortgage, an automobile loan, a student loan or credit card debt. Although a great number of people view debt as unavoidable, it is generally understood that there are good types of debt and bad types of debt. Credit card debt, because of the expenses related to interest charges and fees and the potential for creditor harassment, is often classified as bad debt.

Many people believe that those struggling under the greatest credit card debt burdens are young adults who may not have acquired enough experience or capital to avoid getting over their heads, financially speaking. However, a recent study appeared to reveal a different story. The 2012 study by AARP and Demos found that, on average, people over the age of 50 have more credit card than those under the age of 50.

Although that result was surprising on its own, it was even more surprising because the numbers reflected a significant shift from a 2008 study, which had found younger Americans carrying more credit card debt than those over the age of 50. The average amount of credit card debt held by older Americans in 2012 was approximately $2,000 more than the debt held by those under the age of 50.

The study also examined the reason for the credit card debt, which again proved surprising. Despite the common perception that people acquire credit card debt due to purchases of possessions and a habit of living beyond their means, a third of the Americans over the age of 50 who had credit card debt for at least three months had been using credit cards to cover daily living expenses, like groceries, mortgage payments, or electricity.

It's easy for credit card debt to get out of control, and for consumers to worry that they will never be able to pay off their debts. People in this position can benefit from consulting with attorneys who handle debt relief matters.

Source: AARP.org, "In the Red: Older Americans and Credit Card Debt," Amy Traub-Demos, January 2013

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