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Americans aged 50 and older carry more credit card debt than younger citizens

Gail Cunningham

Gail Cunningham

A recent survey by Demos found that middle-income Americans 50 years of age and older have more credit card debt, on average, than younger Americans, a finding opposite of that reported in a 2008 survey.

The report revealed that older American households had an average credit card balance of $8,278 in 2012, while households with members under age 50 carried an average credit card balance of $6,258.

“Older Americans living on a reduced income and feeling strapped for money will likely turn to credit cards as a way to make ends meet,” Gail Cunningham, the vice president of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, said, according to USA Today.

One-third of older households used credit cards to pay rent, mortgages, groceries or utilities, and half of Americans older than 50 carried medical expenses on their credit cards, due primarily to dental expenses and prescription costs.

Twenty-five percent of older households said that a job loss contributed to their credit card debt over the last three years, and 18 percent of older American nearing retirement said that they took money out of their retirement funds to pay on credit card debt. Older Americans were twice as likely, at 23 percent, as those under age 50 to take on credit card debt to help family members.

“The Great Recession and the ongoing financial crisis have only tightened the squeeze on middle-class families and have cast a shadow on the future retirement prospects of today’s workers,” AARP CEO Barry Rand said, USA Today reports.

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