Can you believe that in 1974, Dick Feller penned a “Credit Card Song”? His opening line has taken on deep significance for numerous Americans who find themselves weighed down by consumer debt.
“Well, I guess this story must begin. That fateful day a way back when I decided I should have a credit card.”
When I applied for my very first credit card, it was from a local department store with a limit of $100. Now, I primarily rely on my Visa and Mastercard, and I must admit, my Dillard’s card also has its moments!
In the last month alone, we’ve collectively toppled over a mountain of debt, a staggering $1 trillion high! Imagine, this colossal amount of debt is divided across our 572 million credit card accounts, each connected to over a billion cards in circulation.
While I do cherish the convenience my credit cards offer, I’m acutely aware that this convenience comes with profound responsibilities, especially as interest rates have seen a steady climb over these past few years. Forbes reports that the average credit card interest rate has soared beyond 24%. Credit card delinquencies have hit an 11-year peak. What’s more, these cards have now become a means to cover everyday expenses, likely due to the surge in inflation.
This burden of indebtedness
1. When society becomes ensnared in debt, our ability to spend falters, consequently impacting the economy.
2. Defaulting on debt payments inflicts harm on financial institutions, including banks and credit lending entities.
3. Moody’s, the credit rating agency, has downgraded banks’ credit ratings, citing concerns about other banks’ stability and solvency.
4. Credit card debt has a ripple effect, influencing other household debts.
5. Stagnant wages failing to keep up with inflation are pushing Americans into accumulating more debt.
Misunderstanding the nuances of credit card debt can lead to a series of financial missteps. While I’m as enamored with a new handbag as anyone, I’ve come to understand that swiping a credit card for that purchase won’t hold up well.
I recently crossed paths with a fresh graduate from a private college. Her enthusiasm was palpable as she shared her achievement of completing a master’s degree in social work. To commemorate her hard work, she was set on buying a Louis Vuitton bag priced at $1,500. This young woman had shouldered nearly $100,000 in debt to earn $65,000 a year. As she planned to make only the minimum payments on her credit card for the bag, I attempted to explain, albeit unsuccessfully, that the true cost of the purse would eventually climb closer to $3,000. She corrected me twice, asserting, “The bag is just $1,500.” Sadly, the lack of understanding compounding interest meant that substantial interest would pile up on the bag and any future purchases until that debt was entirely repaid.
Clear the Towering Debt
Clearing the towering debt we’ve all, to some extent, contributed to, consider these suggestions:
1. Create an itemized list of all your debts, prioritized from the highest to lowest interest rates.
2. Curtail your current spending habits. Pause and question, “Do I genuinely need this item?” (Needs and wants don’t always coincide!)
3. Channel any discretionary funds towards repaying the debt with the highest interest rate. Be committed until it’s eliminated. (Skip that coffee, that new blouse, that extra drink at happy hour, and redirect those funds toward your debt.)
4. Repeat this process as necessary! Implement steps 1-3 until your debt is eliminated. Use the Lather, Rinse, and Repeat practice!
(*Potential benefits of carrying or paying off credit card debt can vary depending on a client’s cash flow situation, prevailing interest rates, debt mix, and other factors. And the amount of debt, payment history, and credit utilization rate can have material impacts on a person’s credit score.)
Clearing the debt of even one credit card is a remarkable accomplishment—worthy of celebration. Just remember, celebrations are splendid, but hold off on a shopping spree to mark the occasion!
Here’s hoping we can all reap the rewards of using our credit cards with a hearty dose of good old-fashioned self-discipline!