Americans have started 2022 off with over $1 trillion in credit-card debt, the personal-finance website WalletHub released its report on the States with the Highest & Lowest Credit Card Debts.
It drew data from TransUnion, the Federal Reserve, the U.S. Census Bureau, and WalletHub’s proprietary credit card payoff calculator to determine the cost and time required to repay the median credit card balance in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Here’s the data for the Golden State and others below to see where your state ranks.
Credit Card Debt in California (1st Rank = Least Sustainable):
- Median Credit-Card Balance ($2,260)
- Median Income ($54,399)
- Cost of Interest Until Payoff ($201)
- Expected Payoff Timeframe (12 months and 29 days)
What daily behaviors lead people to amass credit card debt?
“Using credit cards is easy! We do it every day by shopping online and in stores, it simply adds up. Credit card debt is designed to grow due to high-Interest rates and through the power of compounding (paying interest on interest). It is easy for people to make the minimum payment on credit cards, and the balance just keeps on growing,” said Eileen Milliken Beiter, MBA, CPA, CGMA, program director of accounting; associate professor, Nazareth College.
“One is a failure to notice how the debt is piling up, along with a failure to calculate the costs of increasing debt. Another is taking the easy credit offers and becoming dependent on too many credit cards, while letting interest charges accumulate which begin to take a higher and higher proportion of income,” said Rosabeth Moss Kanter, professor, Harvard Business School; founding chair & director, Harvard University Advanced Leadership Initiative.
What are the key situations when going into debt is worth it?
“The only time it is worth it to accumulate revolving debt on a credit card is if it is a true emergency. If you need a critical medication and have to charge it and find a way to pay later, then that’s debt worth accumulating. Or if your car needs necessary repairs and without your car, you will not be able to work then charging the repairs on a card (one hopefully with no or low interest and fees) is unavoidable. Then it is important to pay it off as soon as is reasonable. Accumulating debt in these scenarios is a common occurrence. And, honestly, as an economist who studies debt, I believe credit cards play a valuable role for people to maintain security. For example, if you did not have access to a credit card and that $2,000 car repair was impossible for you to pay then you might lose your job or go to desperate extremes to get the money. Instead, people can charge the expense and formulate a plan going forward to pay it off. This is not a terrible thing,” said Robert Haywood Scott III, Ph.D., professor, at Monmouth University.
“Going into debt can be worth it when it is an investment in something that will produce a bigger return later. For example, student loans (with some exceptions) or home mortgages. The return on education in terms of income can be big in certain fields. A house can be the biggest asset some people accumulate. A one-time splurge on a special treat like a family vacation can be worth it to the family but then, being careful about not piling up the debt to do it can make it joyful rather than stressful. But going into deep debt for consumer purchases is rarely worth it. Of course, low-income or under-resourced people sometimes have no choice if they want to feed their families. That is in the category of necessity rather than luxury,” Kanter added.
What are three easy steps a person should take to become debt-free?
“If you are already in credit card debt you need to develop a plan to pay off the balances. First, try to stop spending. Then figure out what the most you could pay monthly toward reducing the credit card debt and set that amount up as a monthly recurring automatic payment (make sure it is above the minimum payment). Whenever you get extra funds that can be used toward reducing your credit card debt make a payment – you do not have to wait until the monthly billing cycle. Online payments will be posted before mailed-in payments, and you will not have to worry about keeping funds available for when the check clears,” added Jeffry Haber, Ph.D., CPA, professor, Iona College.
“Understand your cash inflows and outflows. What do you earn, and what are your expenses? Look for hidden expenses to cut back on…Take stock of your debt. Make a list of what you owe, including the outstanding balance, monthly payment amount, and interest rates. Know what motivates you. Ideally, you can focus on paying off the debt with the highest interest rate, but if eliminating debt with smaller balances first motivates you, go for it,” Milliken Beiter added.