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Credit Card Companies Specifically Target Less Educated And Less Sophisticated Americans

Credit Cards - Public DomainThe big credit card companies don’t make much money off of those that pay their bills on time, and so they often specifically target less educated and less sophisticated consumers that don’t really understand the dangers of credit card debt.  The goal is to find people that will carry credit card balances from month to month, because that is where the real money can be made.  The average U.S. household that carries balances from month to month has approximately $15,310 in credit card debt right now.  At an average interest rate of about 15 percent, the profits pile up very quickly for the big credit card companies.  After all these years, so many of us still have not learned the truth about credit cards, and so credit card debt is absolutely crippling tens of millions of American families.

In 2015, the total amount of credit card debt in this country increased by a staggering 71 billion dollars.  In a previous article, I explained to my readers that American consumers accumulated more new credit card debt during the fourth quarter of 2015 than they did during the entire years of 2009, 2010 and 2011 combined.

Many analysts are forecasting that the total amount of credit card debt will surpass a trillion dollars by the end of 2016.  This is why there is such a crying need for financial education in this nation.  Millions upon millions of us are being taken for a ride, and as I mentioned above, the big credit card companies often target those of us that are the least sophisticated about financial matters.  The following comes from Bloomberg

Credit-card companies need people to spend more than they can afford, but not so much that they default on their payments. So they could benefit from targeting individuals who are more likely to have cognitive failings. This is the dark side of behavioral finance.

Some new research by economists Antoinette Schoar of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Hong Ru of Nanyang Technological University claims to find exactly such a result. The authors use data from a private company that tracks credit-card offers. They find that less educated consumers — who are likely to be less financially sophisticated — are more frequently given offers that include back-loaded costs. Those are plans that start with low rates, but increase later, with extra-high over-limit and late-payment fees. In other words, those are likely to be the borrowers who make bad financial decisions — racking up debt and eventually paying much more in interest. Meanwhile, more educated households tend not to be offered these plans.

Do you understand what that is saying?

The large credit card companies want to find those of us that are the most vulnerable, because that is where their biggest profits can be made.

And of course most of us have gotten into trouble with credit card debt at some point.  They don’t teach us how to manage our finances in high school or in college, and so most of us are very financially naive when we first get out into the real world.  Card offers are being showered on our young people, and cash-strapped young adults can find it very easy to “buy now and pay later”

Psychologically, it can be easier for people to pay using a credit card because no paper money is involved, Danford said. A Dun & Bradstreet study found that people spend an average of 12 to 18 percent more when using a credit card instead of cash.

I think that’s one of the traps. It’s almost too easy to use a credit card,” Danford said. “You don’t have to think of the consequences.”

According to 2015 data from Experian, the average American had 2.24 credit cards, up from 2.18 in 2014.

Of all credit card users, what percentage do you think carries a balance from month to month?

30 percent?

40 percent?

Well, according to Time Magazine only 35 percent of those that use credit cards completely pay them off every single month.  That means that 65 percent of those that use credit cards do carry a balance…

Only 35% of credit card users don’t carry a balance–they pay off their bill every month, like you’re supposed to. They use credit cards for convenience, and perhaps to generate bonus points and rewards, not because they need to borrow. If you’re a member of this group, you’re known as a “convenience user.” (Go ahead and pat yourself on the back for not being on the hook for high interest rates, but don’t gloat.) The other, more typical credit card users are known as “revolvers” because they don’t pay off their bills in full so the debt revolves. To them, credit limit increases are essentially invitations to spend more. It’s unsettling: “for revolvers, a 10% increase in credit is followed by a 1.3 percent increase in debt within one quarter and a 9.99% increase in debt over the long term,” the study found.

Unfortunately for the big credit card companies and the overall U.S. economy, it appears that U.S. consumers are starting to get tapped out.

Retail sales fell 2.9 percent in April, and then they dropped by 3.9 percent in May.  As a result of these declining sales, corporate profits are suffering, and it is being projected that the final numbers for the second quarter of 2016 will show that corporate profits in the U.S. have now fallen for five quarters in a row.

That is not an “economic recovery”.  Rather, that is what normally happens at the beginning of a major recession.

And don’t expect this to turn around any time soon, because Americans just don’t have the kind of discretionary income that they once did.  The following comes from a New York Post article entitled “A staggering percentage of Americans are too poor to shop“…

Retailers have blamed the weather, slow job growth and millennials for their poor results this past year, but a new study claims that more than 20 percent of Americans are simply too poor to shop.

These 26 million Americans are juggling two to three jobs, earning just around $27,000 a year and supporting two to four children — and exist largely under the radar, according to America’s Research Group, which has been tracking consumer shopping trends since 1979.

So much of what is happening right now is very reminiscent of 2008.  There was an explosion of credit card debt just before that crash as well.

We should have learned some very hard lessons the last time around, but we didn’t, and so now the pain for American families will be even greater this time.

If you are in credit card debt at this moment, it would be wise to try to eliminate it as soon as you can, because you definitely don’t want to be drowning in debt when times get really, really hard.

Credit Card Debt In The United States Is Approaching A Trillion Dollars

Credit Card Debt - Public DomainFor the first time ever, total credit card debt in the United States is approaching a trillion dollars.  Instead of learning painful lessons from the last recession, Americans continue to make the same horrendous financial mistakes over and over again.  In fact, U.S. consumers accumulated more new credit card debt during the 4th quarter of 2015 than they did during the years of 2009, 2010 and 2011 combined.  That is absolutely insanity, because other than payday loans, credit card debt is just about the worst kind of debt that consumers could possibly go into.  Extremely high rates of interest, combined with severe penalties and fees, can choke the financial life out of almost any family in no time at all.

These days, most Americans use credit cards for various purposes, and they can be very convenient.

And if you pay them off every single month, they don’t become a problem.

Unfortunately, a lot of people are not doing this.  According to CNBC, total U.S. credit card debt rose by an astounding 71 billion dollars last year alone…

Last year, credit card debt in the U.S. surged by approximately $71 billion to $917.7 billion, according to a new study from CardHub.com. The research also found that most of the debt accrued in 2015 came in the fourth quarter, when Americans tacked on more than $52 billion.

“With 7 of the past 10 quarters reflecting year-over-year regression in consumer performance, evidence is mounting to support the notion that credit card users are reverting to pre-downturn bad habits,” CardHub CEO Odysseas Papadimitriou said in a statement.

And as noted above, things were particularly gruesome during the 4th quarter of last year.

According to Alternet, Americans added more credit card debt during those three months than during the entire years of 2009, 2010 and 2011 combined…

Not since we headed into the Great Recession of 2008 have we been quite so loosey-goosey with our credit cards, racking up debt with stunning speed. Of our 4Q totals, CardHub notes, “during this one quarter, we added more debt than in 2009, 2010 and 2011 put together.” That brings dollars owed to credit card companies by each debt-saddled American family up to $7,879, the highest since the Great Recession.

I can’t even begin to describe how unwise this is.  When I was in my twenties, I made the same mistakes that so many other Americans are making right now.  I very foolishly racked up large balances on my credit cards, and it took years of extremely painful payments to fix those mistakes.

In America today, 37 percent of all households maintain credit card balances from month to month, and the average level of credit card debt for those households is $15,700.  The following comes from CBS Minnesota

According to NerdWallet, 37 percent of American households have credit card debt, which is defined as not paying off the full balance every month. Using data from the Federal Reserve of New York, U.S. Census and its own poll, NerdWallet found the average balance for those in credit debt is $15,700.

What most people don’t realize is that by letting balances run from month to month, you can end up paying just about as much in interest as you did for the original purchases.

Here is one credit card repayment scenario that comes from NerdWallet

For the sake of simplicity in calculating the cost of the average credit card debt, let’s assume an APR of 16% and a fixed payment. We’ll also assume a minimum payment of 2% of the principal balance of $15,762, the average as of the end of 2015, or $315.

Based on those terms — and assuming you don’t add any more to your credit card balance — it would take 84 months, or seven years, to pay off the balance in full. During that time, you’ll pay $10,402 in interest — about two-thirds of the original balance — for a total of $26,164. This averages out to about $124 in interest per month.

The scenario above assumes that all payments are made on time.  But a single late payment can trigger higher interest rates, penalties and fees that can be absolutely suffocating.

In fact, some people end up paying back three, four or five times as much as they originally borrowed to the credit card companies.

If you use credit cards for convenience or to buy things online or to automatically pay bills, that is fine.  Just don’t let balances accumulate.  As you can see, that can be financial suicide.

And as we head into a new global recession, you definitely don’t want to be saddled with high levels of debt.  All of us have little luxuries that we can cut back on, and now is not the time to be living on the financial edge.

Just look at some of the troubling signs that we have seen in the news in recent days…

-The U.S. oil and rig count just dropped to the lowest level ever recorded

-One Houston CEO told employees that he was laying off that we have entered a “depression

-It is being reported that 35 percent of all oil and gas companies around the world are at risk of falling into bankruptcy

-Unemployment in Canada just hit a three year high

-The number of job cuts in the United States skyrocketed 218 percent during the month of January according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas

-U.S. manufacturing activity has been in contraction for four months in a row

-U.S. factory orders have now fallen for 15 months in a row

-Subprime auto loan delinquencies have hit their highest level since the last recession

-Orders for Class 8 trucks in the United States dropped by 48 percent on a year over year basis in January

-The Restaurant Performance Index in the United States has dropped to the lowest level that we have seen since 2008

-Major retailers all over America are shutting down hundreds of stores

And this list does not even include all of the signs of severe economic trouble from around the rest of the planet that I have been writing about lately.

Credit card debt truly is financial poison, and it is not something that you want to have during the hard times that are coming.

Unfortunately, most Americans never learn, and they continue to rack up credit card debt as if there is no tomorrow even as the global economy starts to spiral downhill all around them.

If The U.S. Government Keeps Spending Money Like This We Are Doomed And If The U.S. Government Stops Spending Money Like This We Are Doomed

If you increased your credit card spending by a couple thousand dollars per month would your lifestyle improve?  Of course it would.  By going into large amounts of debt, it is possible to live a lifestyle that you can’t really afford, at least for a while.  But if you keep racking up huge amounts of credit card debt every single month, eventually it gets to a point where it is extremely difficult to even keep up with the minimum monthly payments and the credit card companies will not lend you any more money.  Well, on a larger scale it is the same thing with government debt.  Right now, the U.S. government is spending more than a trillion dollars more than it takes in every year.  Even if the U.S. government spends all of that money on incredibly stupid stuff, it still gets into the pockets of ordinary Americans.  In turn, those ordinary Americans use that money to pay the mortgage, buy food, shop at the mall, etc.  All of this borrowing and spending by the U.S. government has created a “false prosperity” bubble that is not real.  It may feel real to you right now, but it is unsustainable by definition.  If the U.S. government suddenly started spending only the money that it actually brought in every year, our economy would be doomed and all of this “false prosperity” would rapidly disappear.  But if the U.S. government continues to rack up debt at this pace we are doomed as well.  In fact, every dollar that gets borrowed makes our eventual collapse ever worse.  We are heading down the exact same road that Greece has gone.  Eventually the rest of the world is not going to lend us gigantic mountains of super cheap money anymore.  When the flow of cheap money stops, it can be extremely painful.  Anyone that has ever seen the interest rates on their credit cards go above 20 percent knows how this feels.  If we had addressed these problems as a nation a decade or two ago, perhaps we could have found a solution.  But now there is no way out under our current financial system and a devastating economic collapse is on the horizon no matter what we do.

If there was a Hollywood movie where some crooks successfully stole 150 million dollars, what would you think of those crooks?

Would you have admiration for them?

Would you be disgusted with them?

Would you feel like your intelligence was insulted because nobody could ever steal 150 million dollars and get away with it?

Well, right now the federal government is stealing approximately 150 million dollars from our children and our grandchildren every single hour.

That’s right – the U.S. government is borrowing an astounding 150 million dollars an hour that our children and our grandchildren will be expected to deal with.

It is a theft so vast that it is almost unimaginable.

So what should be done?

A lot of people out there think that our problems would be solved if the government would just quit borrowing so much money.

Well, it is just not that simple.

Look at Greece.  They were forced by the EU and the IMF to dramatically reduce government spending.  But when Greece reduced government spending, that caused the economy to shrink rapidly and it caused tax receipts to go down more than expected.  So Greek budget deficits were even larger than anticipated and so Greece was forced to cut spending even more.  But that created even more economic problems.

A recent article by John Mauldin described the nightmarish effect that this cycle has had on Greece….

And as Greece began shake and bake its way to “austerity,” the very act of cutting deficits pushed the country into recession, which lowered tax revenues and increased expenses, putting the elusive goal of a balanced budget even further off. We should quickly note that this is not just a Greek problem. Spain’s “draconian” cuts have meant that its 6% deficit target for the year has this week been raised to a more likely 8%, making it harder to get back to even.

For country after country, this is the Endgame. It is the end of the Debt Supercycle. Debt has grown to the size that it cannot be sustained. The market will not lend any more money on terms that can be afforded, and any efforts to cut spending and raise taxes will result in an even worse economy, in various degrees of recession, with falling revenues and rising costs.

This is what happens when a country that has been spending far beyond its means is forced to dramatically cut back.

Those that are convinced that balancing the federal budget in the United States will be relatively painless should take a close look at what is happening in Greece.

As I have written about previously, the Greek economy has been plunged into a 21st century “Great Depression”.  In Greece, 20 percent of all retail stores have already shut down, the unemployment rate for those under the age of 24 is sitting at 39 percent, and one third of the entire nation is living in poverty.

And this is only just the beginning for Greece.

Things are going to get even worse.

Unfortunately, many believe that the United States is destined to experience far worse pain than Greece is currently experiencing.

For example, Peter Schiff insists that the United States is in worse financial shape than Europe at this point.  Just check out this video….

Anyone that attempts to downplay the U.S. debt problem is making a serious mistake.  Yes, we are still able to borrow trillions of dollars for next to nothing, but that is going to come to an end.

Remember all of those “suckers” that signed up for mortgages at “teaser rates” that later got jacked up dramatically?

Of course you do.

So what happened to them?

When the rates went up many of them ended up losing everything.

Well, we have gotten ourselves into the exact same kind of a position.  All of this cheap money has enabled us to live very nicely for now, but when the cheap money ends the nightmare will begin.

Right now, our debt is growing much, much faster than our economy is.  Between 2007 and 2010, U.S. GDP grew by only 4.26%, but the U.S. national debt soared by 61% during that same time period.

What would your household finances look like if your total debt grew by 61 percent next year but your income only grew by 4 percent?

When I was a little boy, the U.S. national debt was considered to be a huge national crisis.  Politicians from both major political parties were promising that they would fix things.

But what has happened since then?

Well, when Ronald Reagan took office the U.S. national debt was less than 1 trillion dollars.  Today, the U.S. national debt is over 15.2 trillion dollars.

During 2011, the federal government went into more debt than the U.S. government accumulated from the time that George Washington became president to the time that Ronald Reagan became president.

That may be hard to believe, but it is true.

During fiscal year 2011, the U.S. government spent 3.7 trillion dollars but it only brought in 2.4 trillion dollars.

That is utter insanity, and yet most Americans have become convinced that this is “normal” and that there is nothing to worry about.

It is hard to grasp how much money a trillion dollars is.

If right this moment you went out and started spending one dollar every single second, it would take you more than 31,000 years to spend one trillion dollars.

That is how much money a trillion dollars is.

And things look even worse when you look at the balance sheet of the U.S. government.

The U.S. government has total assets of 2.7 trillion dollars and has total liabilities of 17.5 trillion dollars.  Those liabilities do not even count 4.7 trillion dollars of intragovernmental debt that is currently outstanding.

But it is not just the federal government that has been living a fantasy.

The chart posted below shows the growth of total debt in America over the past several decades.  Consumers, businesses and government officials have been on a debt binge that is absolutely unprecedented….

The scary thing is that even with all of this borrowed money, our economy is still in the dumps.

So what in the world is it going to look like when the debt bubble totally bursts?

Even with all of this “borrowed prosperity”, anger at the government is rapidly growing.  A recent Gallup poll found that “satisfaction with government” in the United States is now at an all-time record low of 29 percent.

So how angry will the American people be when all of this “borrowed prosperity” disappears?

When this whole thing comes tumbling down, a lot of people are going to blame our problems on “capitalism”.

In fact, it is already happening.  Just check out what the founder of the World Economic Forum is saying….

“We have a general morality gap, we are over-leveraged, we have neglected to invest in the future, we have undermined social coherence, and we are in danger of completely losing the confidence of future generations,” said Klaus Schwab, host and founder of the annual World Economic Forum.

“Solving problems in the context of outdated and crumbling models will only dig us deeper into the hole.

“We are in an era of profound change that urgently requires new ways of thinking instead of more business-as-usual,” the 73-year-old said, adding that “capitalism in its current form, has no place in the world around us.”

But capitalism is not the problem.  Capitalism has produced the greatest eras of prosperity that the world has ever seen.

No, the real problem is our debt-based financial system that is managed and run by the central banks of the world.

You see, debt-based central banking is not capitalism.  But way too many people equate the two.

A lot of people cannot even imagine this, but theoretically you could have capitalism without any debt whatsoever.

But what we have today is a financial system that has debt as the very foundation.  And such a system is inevitably going to fail someday.

As I have written about so many times before, the Federal Reserve is at the very heart of our economic problems here in the United States.

The Federal Reserve was designed to be a perpetual debt machine.  And it has performed that task very well.  The U.S. national debt is now more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was first created.

So yes, even though things seem somewhat “stable” for the moment, there are all kinds of reasons to be concerned about the viability of our economy and our financial system in the years ahead.

The other day, I was quoted in a Reuters article about our coming economic problems….

“Most people have a gut feeling that something has gone terribly wrong, but that doesn’t mean that they understand what is happening,” he said. “A lot of Americans sense that a massive economic storm is coming and they want to be prepared for it.”

Of course the Reuters reporter did not even bother to spell my name correctly, but at least he got the quote right.

A great economic storm is coming.

Don’t let this false prosperity and this “calm before the storm” fool you.

We are living in the greatest debt bubble the world has ever seen, and no matter how it plays out there is going to be a massive amount of pain.

You might want to get yourself and your family prepared for that.

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