According to the most recent data from the Survey of Consumer Finances by the U.S. Federal Reserve, the credit card debt of American households is approximately $5,700.
When a financial institute performed a research study earlier this year to determine the average debt of households that did not pay their balance in full on a monthly basis, the numbers were even more staggering. The average credit card debt for those households increased to an average of $16,048.
College debt is another serious problem, which has become subject of many presidential candidate debates this election year. According to an article published on U.S. News, 17 percent of student borrowers are behind their payments or in default of our country’s $1.2 trillion in college loans.
These young adults are starting their careers with an overwhelming burden, and often carry this liability for many years after graduation. Furthermore, the snow-ball effect is certain: More often than not, debt generates more debt, and many people are trapped in the “borrowing from Peter to pay Paul” cycle for years, and sometimes decades.
I am not sure when it started, but sometime in the past 20 years, it seems as if living in debt has slowly become a nonissue among many people, not only in America, but in most of the world’s developed countries. My husband and I were recently discussing this fact with some friends over dinner, and how this mindset seems to have become common among people of our generation and younger, compared to how our parents conducted their lives.
We were both raised in middle-class homes, by parents from the baby boomer generation. A couple of them held blue-collar jobs all their lives, living in modest homes and driving cars which they either paid for in cash or, in the rare occasions when a car loan was issued, their concern was to pay them off as fast as possible.
Our parents never held credit card debt and have always been thrifty with their money. The result has been that although they had modest salaries all their lives, today they live comfortably and have more savings than many people with six-digit salaries.“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” Click To Tweet
This verse, found in the book of Proverbs contains two strong points that are absolutely true and crucial for the establishment of a prosperous society. One of the key things about the American dream is the fact that anyone with strong work ethics and willingness to work hard can be successful in this wonderful country.
It’s the very opposite of socialistic and dictatorship regimes, where the few rich people indeed rule over the poor and the governments’ objective is to create programs to keep people from prospering beyond a certain threshold. The other part of this verse reminds us of a sad truth, which anyone who’s been trapped by debt knows well: When we owe money, we are never free to do what we want. We live from paycheck to paycheck, often working to pay for toys that our kids don’t even play with anymore… or for houses too big for our small families.
I know from experience that sometimes debt is inevitable. Many of us have had businesses that failed, or long-term unemployment. There is nothing we can do on such instances. But as a general rule, I am convinced and determined to take heed of the wisdom behind that proverb of old, hide it in my heart and teach it to my children: Pay as you go, and don’t live above your means. You don’t need every toy the Joneses have, and you certainly don’t have to be rich to have a full, prosperous life. All you need is to make wise financial decisions.
Patricia Holbrook is a Christian author, blogger and International speaker. Her Book Twelve Inches is on sale at Barnes & Nobles, Amazon and retailers worldwide. Visit her website www.soaringwithHim.com. Email pholbrook@soaringwithHim.com