U.S. Consumers On An Unprecedented Debt Binge As Credit Card Debt Soars To An All-Time Record High

Americans are on an absolutely spectacular debt binge.  Does this mean that the economy is getting better, or does this mean that U.S. consumers are totally tapped out and are relying on borrowed money to make it from month to month?  On Monday, the Federal Reserve announced that total consumer credit in the United States increased by a whopping 24.6 billion dollars in May, which was far greater than the 12.4 billion dollar gain that economists were anticipating.  Total U.S. consumer credit has now hit a grand total of 3.9 trillion dollars, but it is the “revolving credit” numbers that are getting the most attention.  Revolving credit alone shot up by 9.8 billion dollars in May, and that was one of the largest monthly increases ever recorded.  At this point, total “revolving credit” has reached a brand new all-time record high of 1.39 trillion dollars, and credit card debt accounts for nearly all of that figure.

The optimists will tell us that this is yet another sign that the U.S. economy is booming, and hopefully they are correct.

But does it really make sense for U.S. consumers to go on a historic debt binge when much of the country is already drowning in debt and just barely scraping by from month to month?

In a previous article, I pointed out that U.S. consumers have been spending more money than they make for 28 months in a row.

That certainly isn’t sustainable.

I also pointed out that 22 percent of all Americans cannot pay all of their bills in a typical month.

One way to keep things going is to use newer credit cards to pay off the older ones, and I am sure that most of us have been there at some point.

But we are getting to the point where American families are being absolutely overwhelmed by debt.

If you go all the way back to 1980, the average U.S. worker’s debt was 1.96 times larger than his or her monthly salary.  In 2018, that number has skyrocketed to 5.00.

Is that healthy or unhealthy?

Overall, American households are now collectively 13.15 trillion dollars in debt, which is the highest level ever recorded.

So I would submit that rising consumer debt is not a good sign.  Instead, I would suggest that it shows that our debt problems are accelerating.

And the numbers appear to support that hypothesis.

According to one recent survey, 42 percent of U.S. consumers said that they paid their credit card bill late “at least once in the last year”.  And that same survey also found that 24 percent of U.S. consumers made a late payment “more than once in the last year”.

When you pay a credit card bill late, what happens?

Late fees kick in and interest rates shoot up, and that is when debt problems can really start to escalate.

Sadly, the mainstream media continues to encourage Americans to acquire and use credit cards in order “to build credit”

Building your credit is one of the toughest but most necessary financial tasks when you’re entering the working world, and a credit card—when used correctly—can be a great tool to help you secure lower interest rates on a car or house loan.

According to Jill Gonzalez, an analyst at WalletHub, a credit card will help you in the long run. “Getting a credit card and using it responsibly helps people build their credit. Having good credit leads to getting better rates and paying less interest on loans such as mortgages, car loans, personal loans etc.”

Yes, credit cards can be useful tools as long as you keep them paid off.

Unfortunately, much of the country does not do that.

In fact, the same survey that I just referenced above discovered that 22 percent of all consumers believe that “carrying a balance on a credit card account actually helps improve a credit score”.

That isn’t true, but it is a myth that continues to float around out there, and the credit card companies are not exactly discouraging it.

Another reason to avoid using credit cards a lot is because thieves are becoming much more sophisticated.

This time of the year, electronic skimmers at gas stations are commonly used to steal credit card information

Skimmers are small, electronic devices installed secretly at pumps and able to capture a swiped payment card’s protected data, the agency said. Commercial keys purchased online let fraudsters access pumps often left unattended, according to a report from ABC News.

Thieves then return later to retrieve the devices or transmit it remotely via Bluetooth, before using the information to make purchases, Matthew O’Neil, a representative of the agency, told the network.

Of course I am not saying that people should never use credit cards.  They can make it much easier to shop and do business online, and I use them myself.  But I always pay them off each month because credit card debt is one of the most toxic forms of debt.

Today, the national average for credit card interest rates is 16.92 percent.  So let’s imagine a hypothetical for a few moments.  If you are carrying a $10,000 balance at 17 percent, your minimum payment would typically be around $240 a month.

If you only make the minimum payment each month, it will take you 340 months to pay that credit card off, and over that time you will pay $13,607.46 in interest.

In other words, you will ultimately pay the credit card company $23,607.46 for the privilege of originally borrowing $10,000.

We live at a time when there is so much uncertainty, and if things take a substantial turn for the worse you definitely do not want to be struggling with credit card debt.

Because it typically carries such a high interest rate, credit card debt is usually one of the very first forms of debt that you want to get paid off.  Unfortunately, they don’t teach our young people about the dangers of credit card debt in school, so many of them end up learning the hard way.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

The Federal Reserve Is Increasing The Pace Of Interest Rate Hikes Just In Time For The 2018 Mid-Term Elections

If the Federal Reserve really wanted to hurt the U.S. economy, the quickest way that it could do that would be by aggressively raising interest rates.  Lower interest rates make it less expensive to borrow money, and therefore economic activity tends to expand in a low interest rate environment.  Alternatively, higher interest rates make it more expensive to borrow money, and economic activity tends to slow down in a high interest rate environment.  Since 1913, the Federal Reserve has engaged in 18 previous rate hiking cycles, and every single one of them resulted in a huge stock market decline and/or a recession.  It will be the same this time around as well, and the “experts” at the Federal Reserve know exactly what they are doing.  Interest rates are being aggressively jacked up just in time for the 2018 mid-term elections, and that is very bad news for the Republican Party and the Trump administration.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve announced an interest rate hike for the 2nd time this year

The Federal Reserve increased a key interest rate again Wednesday, which will trigger higher rates on credit cards, home equity lines and other kinds of borrowing.

Wednesday’s action, which was widely expected, was the second Fed rate hike this year — and the seventh since it began boosting them in 2015. The latest increase puts the federal funds rate in a range between 1.75 and 2 percent. The Fed previously nudged rates up in March.

Because so much is based on what the Federal Reserve does, now interest rates will be going up throughout our economy.

For example, we should expect the average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage to surpass the 4.66 percent mark that we witnessed earlier this year

Mortgage rates have been climbing. The average rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage climbed to 4.66% this year in May, the highest in seven years, before falling slightly in recent weeks.

Home mortgage rates tend to move with the bond market, but rates can also rise because of a higher federal funds rate. A higher rate makes it more expensive for banks to borrow money, which can translate into higher borrowing rates for consumers.

Needless to say, this is going to have a huge impact on the housing market.

Interest rates will also be going up on credit cards, auto loans and just about every other kind of debt that you can imagine.

This will inevitably slow down economic activity, and it will make the party that is in power in Washington (the Republicans) look bad.

Originally, it was anticipated that the Federal Reserve would raise rates only three times in 2018, but now they are indicating that rates will be raised a total of four times this year.  The following comes from NPR

The Fed also signaled that it will raise rates more this year than previously expected — four times rather than three.

This is economic sabotage, but nobody in the mainstream media will ever admit this.

Most people do not understand that the Federal Reserve has far more power over the performance of the U.S. economy than anyone else does.  It was the Fed’s ultra-low interest rates and easy money policies that fueled the relative economic improvement that we have witnessed early in Trump’s presidency, and it will be the Fed’s policy of aggressively raising rates that will inevitably cause huge economic turmoil in the coming months.

So why would the Federal Reserve do this?

According to Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, the Fed decided to raise interest rates to keep the economy from overheating

The decision reflected an economy that’s getting even stronger. Unemployment is 3.8%, the lowest since 2000, and inflation is creeping higher. The Fed is raising rates gradually to keep the economy from overheating.

“The main takeaway is that the economy is doing very well,” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said at a news conference. “Most people who want to find jobs are finding them, and unemployment and inflation are low.”

Of course that is a load of nonsense.

As I discussed yesterday, if honest numbers were being used our unemployment rate would be at 21.5 percent, inflation would be at about 10 percent, and GDP growth would be negative.

The U.S. economy is definitely not “overheating”.  In fact, it needs as much help as possible to pull out of the deep slump that it has been in for many, many years.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell is supposed to be a Republican, and I suppose that it is possible that he actually believes that he is doing the right thing for the country by aggressively raising interest rates.

But any sort of an economic slowdown will be extremely favorable for the Democrats.  American voters are notorious for “voting their pocketbooks”, and when things get bad they always blame whoever is in power at the time.

In this case, it will be Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress that get the blame for what the Federal Reserve has done.

We know that some among the elite are already discussing the possibility of “a crashing economy” as a way to “get rid of Trump”.  In the short-term, however, the best way to neuter Trump politically would be to have Democrats do extremely well in the 2018 mid-term elections.

If the Democrats take back control of either the House or the Senate in November, Trump’s agenda will come to a crashing halt, and thanks to the Federal Reserve that scenario has just become much more likely.

Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.