Older Americans Running Up Large Credit Card Debt

Older Americans Running Up Large Credit Card Debt

A troubling survey shows that older Americans are now carrying more credit card debt than younger people, mainly due to job loss and medical bills, not because of a lack of financial responsibility.

The study looked at 997 middle-income households that were carrying credit card debt for at least three months. Of the respondents, households age 50 and older had an average credit card balance of $8,278 compared to an average debt of $6,258 for households under age 50.

The Demos' 2012 National Survey on Credit Card Debt of Low- and Middle-Income Households was done on behalf of AARP. The survey also found:

  • Half of the older households were carrying medical expenses, such as prescription drugs and dental expenses, on their credit card accounts.
  • 34 percent of the older households were using their credit cards to pay for basic living expenses such as groceries, utilities and housing costs.
  • Job loss was a factor in running up credit card debt in nearly 25 percent of the older households.
  • But the older households have a much bigger heart than the younger households: 23 percent have taken on credit card debt to help other family members versus 11 percent of the younger households.
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