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Tis The Season For Credit Card Debt: This Christmas Americans Will Spend An Average Of 422 Dollars Per Child

christmas-gifts-public-domainFor many Americans, the quality of Christmas is determined by the quality of the presents.  This is especially true for our children, and some of them literally spend months anticipating their haul on Christmas morning.  I know that when I was growing up Christmas was all about the presents.  Yes, adults would give lip service to the other elements of Christmas, but all of the other holiday activities could have faded away and it still would have been Christmas as long as presents were under that tree on the morning of December 25th.  Perhaps things are different in your family, but it is undeniable that for our society as a whole gifts are the central feature of the holiday season.

And that is why so many parents feel such immense pressure to spend a tremendous amount of money on gifts for their children each year.  Of course this pressure that they feel is constantly being reinforced by television ads and big Hollywood movies that continuously hammer home what a “good Christmas” should look like.

Once again in 2016, parents will spend far more money than they should because they want to make their children happy.  According to a brand new survey from T. Rowe Price, parents in the United States will spend an average of 422 dollars per child this holiday season…

More than half of parents report they aim to get everything on their kids’ wish lists this year, spending an average of $422 per child, according to a new survey from T. Rowe Price.

To me, that seems like a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a single child, but this is apparently what people are doing.

But can most families really afford to be spending so wildly?

Of course not.  As I have detailed previously, 69 percent of all Americans have less than $1,000 in savings.  That means that about two-thirds of the country is essentially living paycheck to paycheck.

So all of this reckless spending brings with it a lot of additional financial pressure.  But because we are a “buy now, pay later” society, we do it anyway.  We are willing to mortgage a little bit of the future in order to have a nice Christmas now.

Another new survey has found that close to half the country feels “pressure to spend more than they can afford during the holiday season”

The SunTrust Banks, Inc. (NYSE: STI) annual Holiday Financial Confidence survey reveals that 43 percent of Americans feel pressure to spend more than they can afford during the holiday season. Pressure to overspend is up four percent since the survey was first conducted in 2014 by Harris Poll, but down slightly from a high of 46 percent last year.

Ultimately, much of this spending ends up going on credit cards, and credit card debt is one of the most insidious forms of debt.

And the truth is that credit card debt was already surging nationally even before we got to the holiday season

But at least one indicator suggests that much of the US is actually struggling financially: Americans are piling on credit card debt at record levels that we haven’t seen since the financial crisis.

Households added $21.9 billion in credit card debt in the third quarter — the largest increase for that period since 2007 — bringing the amount of outstanding credit card debt to $927.1 billion, according to the latest study from WalletHub.

Debt takes future consumption and brings it into the present, but there is a price to be paid for doing that.

Because we have to pay interest on that debt, we always have to pay back more money than we originally borrowed.  And because interest rates on credit cards are so high, paying back credit card debt can be particularly painful.

According to Business Insider, the average American household currently owes nearly $8,000 to the credit card companies, and it is being suggested that this is a sign that the economy is much weaker than we have been led to believe…

The fact that the average household with debt now owes $7,941 to credit card companies, according to WalletHub, suggests that America’s putative economic strength might be a mirage — that the economy may in fact be a lot weaker than all the happy indicators are leading people to believe.

“I think it is a cause of concern because it says consumers are struggling despite the low unemployment figures,” says Lucia Dunn, an economics professor at Ohio State University. “I think the rise in debt arises from weakness in the economy. People whose incomes have dropped may be trying to maintain an older level of consumption by just charging everything.”

And guess what?

The Federal Reserve just raised interest rates, and so that means that paying off credit card debt will be even more painful for Americans in 2017 than it was in 2016.

Could it be possible that we have lost our way?

Could it be possible that we need to entirely rethink our approach to “the holiday season”?

According to an old NBC News story, one survey discovered that 45 percent of all Americans would prefer to skip Christmas altogether because of all the financial pressure…

Some 45 percent of those polled said the holiday season brings so much financial pressure, they would prefer to skip it altogether. Almost half said their level of stress related to holiday expenses is high or extremely high.

That’s probably because nearly the same amount — some 45 percent — say they do not expect to have enough money set aside to cover holiday expenses.

As a society, we need to learn that things will never make us happy.

Life is not about accumulating toys.  Rather, we were created to love and to be loved.

If you want to live a great life, learn how to be a person of great love.  Unfortunately, most people never seem to learn that lesson.

A couple of months ago, I reported that the total amount of household debt in the United States had reached a grand total of 12.3 trillion dollars.

If you break that number down, it comes to approximately $38,557 for every man, woman and child in the entire country.

In addition to that, we must also remember that corporate debt has approximately doubled while Barack Obama has been in the White House, state and local government debt is completely out of control, and the U.S. national debt is now sitting just under 20 trillion dollars.

Our greed is absolutely killing us, but we can’t stop.

So we will continue to party until eventually somebody comes along and turns out the lights.

The Triumph Of Materialism: The Average American Will Spend 830 Dollars On Christmas In 2015

Christmas Gift - Public DomainHas there ever been a major holiday more focused on materialism than the modern American Christmas?  This year, Americans are planning to spend an average of 830 dollars on Christmas gifts, which represents a jump of 110 dollars over the average of 720 dollars last year.  But have our incomes gone up accordingly?  Of course not.  In fact, real median household income in the United States has been experiencing a steady long-term decline.  So in order to fund all of our Christmas spending, we have got to go into even more debt.  We love to pull out our credit cards and spend money that we do not have on lots of cheap, useless stuff made on the other side of the world by workers making slave labor wages.  We do the same thing year after year, and most of us have grown accustomed to the endless cycle of growing debt.  In fact, one Pew survey found that approximately 70 percent of all Americans believe that “debt is a necessity in their lives”.  But then we have to work our fingers to the bone to try to make the payments on all of that debt, not realizing that debt systematically impoverishes us.  It may be hard to believe, but if you have a single dollar in your pocket and no debt, you have a greater net worth than 25 percent of all Americans.  I know that sounds crazy, but it is true.

Overall, when you add up all forms of debt (consumer, business, local government, state government and federal government), Americans are more than 60 trillion dollars in debt.

Let that sink in for a bit.

40 years ago, that number was sitting at about 3 trillion dollars.

We have been on the greatest debt binge in the history of the world.  Even though we were “the wealthiest, most prosperous nation on the entire planet”, we always had to have more.  We just kept on borrowing and borrowing and borrowing from the future until we completely destroyed it.

And we still haven’t learned anything.  Instead, this Christmas season we will be partying like it’s 2007

Americans are planning on celebrating Christmas like it’s 2007.

A November survey by Gallup found that US adults are planning on spending about $830 on average on Christmas gifts this year.

That’s a huge jump from last year’s $720 average.

Notably, American consumers haven’t suggested a number that high since November 2007, when they were planning on spending $866 on average.

Sadly, our incomes simply do not justify this kind of extravagance.  As Zero Hedge has pointed out, household incomes “actually peaked at least 15 years ago in 81% of U.S. counties.”

So why can’t we adjust our lifestyles to match?

Why must we always have more?

Here are more details on our declining incomes from the Visual Capitalist

  • Income peaked one year ago for many of the counties that are a part of the shale boom. This includes much of North and South Dakota, as well as parts of Texas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. Income in Washington, D.C. and neighboring Arlington County also peaked then.
  • In 1999, a total of 1,623 counties had their households reach peak income. The majority of these counties are in the Midwest and Southeast.
  • The most southern part of California and parts of New England both peaked around 25 years ago.
  • Many states along the Rocky Mountains such as Wyoming and Montana had counties that peaked roughly 35 years ago.
  • Household income peaked in upstate New York, the northern tip of California, and southern Nevada at the same time that humans were first landing on the moon in 1969.

But you won’t hear this reported on the mainstream news, will you?

They want us to think that happy days are here again.

The following chart comes from the Federal Reserve, and it shows that real median household income in the United States has been trending down since 1999…

Real Median Household Income - Federal Reserve

Americans should be having smaller Christmases instead of bigger ones, but that doesn’t fit the image of who we still think that we are.

Recently, I published an article entitled “Goodbye Middle Class: 51 Percent Of All American Workers Make Less Than 30,000 Dollars A Year” that was shared more than 44,000 times on Facebook.  In that article, I included brand new figures that were just released by the Social Security Administration.  As you can see, the quality of our jobs is not great…

-38 percent of all American workers made less than $20,000 last year.

-51 percent of all American workers made less than $30,000 last year.

-62 percent of all American workers made less than $40,000 last year.

-71 percent of all American workers made less than $50,000 last year.

Without a doubt, most American families should not be spending hundreds of dollars a year on Christmas gifts.

At these income levels, most American families are just barely surviving.

But once again this year, millions upon millions of Americans will flock to the malls and big box stores in a desperate attempt to make themselves happy.

Sadly, those efforts will be in vain.  In fact, in a previous article I highlighted the fact that Christmas is the unhappiest season of the year.  The suicide rate spikes to the highest level of the year during “the holidays”, and 45 percent of all Americans report that they dread the Christmas season.  The following is an excerpt from a Psychology Today article

We are told that Christmas, for Christians, should be the happiest time of year, an opportunity to be joyful and grateful with family, friends and colleagues. Yet, according to the National Institute of Health, Christmas is the time of year that people experience the highest incidence of depression. Hospitals and police forces report the highest incidences of suicide and attempted suicide. Psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals report a significant increase in patients complaining about depression. One North American survey reported that 45% of respondents dreaded the festive season.

In recent years, an increasing number of Americans have given up the tradition of Christmas gifts entirely, and many of them that I know seem quite happy to have done so.

Of course most people are still quite satisfied with the status quo, and there are many that will get very angry with you if you dare to suggest that the way that Americans celebrate Christmas has gotten way out of hand.

But shouldn’t it alarm us that for most Americans the biggest holiday of the year is all about the “stuff” they are going to buy, the “stuff” they are going to give and the “stuff” they are going to get?

As a society, we are obsessed with things, but those things are never going to make us happy.

Perhaps we should all take some time to reflect on the traditions that we choose to participate in and what they really mean to us during this “holiday season”…

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