Monday, August 24, 2009

The Positive Impact of the Credit Crunch

The stagnant economy has led to high unemployment, a reduction in pay raises, and the elimination of 401k matches by many employers. Of course, retirement portfolios have also been hit hard, leading many to wonder how they can afford to retire. No doubt, times have been tough.

However, if your looking for a positive effect to come out of the recent recession, look at how individuals handle their personal credit. In May of 2009, there was a total of $928 billion of revolving debt outstanding. That number is down from $960 billion in 2008. Additionally, households received a total of 3.8 billion new credit card offers in 2008, down from 5.2 billion in 2007. Currently, 27% of U.S. households do not own a credit card, while 55% of households pay their card balances in full every month. Compared to historical trends, these numbers are encouraging.

If you'd like to know how you compare to the average U.S. consumer, consider these statistics:
  • The average person owns a total of 4 credit cards.
  • 1 in 10 people carries more than 10 credit cards.
  • 1 in 7 consumers uses 80% or more of his or her available credit limit.
  • The average credit card holder has a total credit limit of $19,000.
  • Of consumers carrying a balance, the median credit card debt equals $3,000.
Of course, helping people develop a strategy for organizing and eliminating debt is a primary function of a financial advisor. However, make sure the advisor is financially motivated to help you get out of debt rather than into more debt so you have money to invest with him. It's best to speak to an independent, fee-only financial planner with a fiduciary responsibility to do what is in your best interest.

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