It’s hard to turn on the news these days without hearing stories about how – slowly, but surely – the U.S. economy is getting back on track. But, while macroeconomic indicators may be up, too many families are still feeling the pinch of lost jobs and lower incomes.
Many are still using credit cards to make ends meet. According to a survey recently released by the think tank Demos, last year approximately 40 percent of working- and middle-class Americans used credit cards to pay for “basic living expenses” like food, housing, utilities and insurance.
The organization says that the trend is likely due to a combination of stagnant wage growth and rising prices. Even though incomes have not gone up, basic necessities like food and gas have continued to become more expensive.
The survey was issued to commemorate the third anniversary of the federal Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act. That law placed new consumer-friendly regulations on credit card companies, including better disclosure practices and limits on interest rate hikes, fees and penalties.
However, it unfortunately did not remedy our country’s biggest issue with credit cards. Said one Demos researcher to CNN, “the Credit Card Act clearly didn’t solve the underlying problem of households needing to rely on debt to make ends meet.”
While relying on credit cards can help families get through a short-term cash crunch, it can easily lead to larger financial problems down the road. Many consumers find themselves facing bankruptcy after their credit card debts become unsustainable.
Oftentimes, bankruptcy can be the best way to address unmanageable consumer debts.
Source: CNN Money, “Americans still relying on credit cards to get by,” Jessica Dickler, May 23, 2012.
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