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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.

Is America The Most Materialistic Society In The History Of The World?

When it comes to materialism, has any nation ever surpassed what we are seeing in the United States right now?  We define our lives by how much stuff we have, to a large degree our personal and business relationships are defined by how much money we make, and even most of the important dates on our calendar are all about materialism.  Just think about it.  We throw outrageous birthday parties for our kids and we shower them with gifts.  Most of our “holidays” have become highly materialistic, and the biggest holiday of all in our society, Christmas, is an absolute orgy of materialism.  We make lists of the “wealthiest Americans” and we glorify their achievements.  We spend most of our time either making money or spending it.  Even the phrase “the American Dream” reveals how materialistic we are.  When most people are asked what “the American Dream” is, they start talking about a house, a car, vacations, retirement, sending your kids to college, etc.  The American Dream has become all about money and stuff.  Sadly, no matter how big our homes are and no matter how many shiny new toys we accumulate, we never seem to be happy.  We always want more, and we always seem to be willing to go into more debt to get it.  We are the most materialistic society in the history of the world, and our endless greed is going to end up swallowing us alive.

When it comes to materialism in America, there are outrageous examples all around us, but one of my favorite examples is the “Rich Kids of Instagram“.  It is a Tumblr blog of photos from Instagram of young Americans showing off how they are enjoying the vast wealth of their parents.  The following is how the Washington Post describes the blog….

The controversial new Tumblr is a collection of snapshots from the photo-sharing site that depicts the children of wealth and privilege — summering in the Hamptons, lounging on yachts and posing by their luxury cars.

One does a back-flip out of a helicopter near St. Tropez. Others snap pictures of their restaurant bills — allegedly paying thousands of dollars for lobster, champagne and high-end liquor.

In the warm patina of the Instagram, the youngsters appear to be living over-the-top lifestyles — and enjoying every moment.

“Our everyday is better than your best day,” reads one caption, a bit tauntingly. And, “Do you have a horse in your backyard? Didn’t think so.”

But just because you have a horse on your property does that make your life better than the rest of our lives?

Of course not.

Wealth does not equal happiness.

Unfortunately, however, most Americans have totally bought into this lie.

Most Americans believe that more money equals a better life.

In response to “the Rich Kids of Instagram”, the Huffington Post recently put together a piece entitled “the Rich Cats of Instagram” that features photos of cats as they “model upscale accessories, lounge with bottles of champagne, sail on yachts and ponder life while relaxing atop piles of money.”

Of course a lot of those pictures are quite funny, but they also reveal a deep truth about our society.

We have spent our lives chasing after the almighty dollar thinking that it will make us happy.  Study after study has shown that we tend to link wealth and happiness.  The following is from a recent NBC News article about one of those studies….

Many parents already know older children can be materialistic. Some tweens not only want the latest games and clothes, but also think owning these things will bring them happiness, friends and popularity. And marketers are eager to get them to buy: Tweens spend $28 billion a year, not including the more than $200 billion their parents spend on them, according to market research company C+R Research.

But even though we have an incredibly high standard of living compared to most of the rest of the world, are most of us actually happy?

No way.  In fact, Americans take more anti-depressants than anyone else on the planet.

It is really easy to get caught up in materialism though.  Let me share an example from my own life.

Several months ago our old truck completely died.  Instead of pouring thousands of more dollars into fixing it, we decided that we would get another used truck.

So the other day I stopped by a dealership while my wife was grabbing some things from Home Depot.  The salesperson started showing me some of the used trucks on the lot, but after a while I suggested that he show me some of the new trucks that were sitting on the other side of the lot.

Before I knew it, I was sitting in the most expensive truck on the lot and he was showing me all of the cool features it had.

And I have to admit – for a few moments there I was really enamored with that truck.  It was the coolest truck that I had ever seen in my life.

Of course my wife and I don’t need a truck like that.  We only need to haul stuff around a few times a month.  And we certainly do not need the amount of debt that it would take to buy such a truck.

But for a few moments there I really wanted it.  The pull of materialism can be very strong.

So would that truck have “changed my life” or brought me lasting happiness?

Of course not.

It would have brought some thrills for the first couple of days, but after a while it would just be sitting in the garage taking up space just like any other truck would.

So did I end up buying a truck?

Not yet.  But we need one soon.  My wife has been without a truck for quite a few months now and she is getting impatient.

But whether we get a nice used truck or a used truck that has one foot in the grave, it really isn’t going to change our lives much.

In the end, our lives should not be defined by what we own or by how much money we have in the bank.

But how do we refer to ourselves in this day and age?

The American people are called “consumers” and the truth is that we consume far more than anyone else on the globe does.

Just look at our eating habits.  Of all the major industrialized nations, America is the most obese.

The next time you go into a store, take note of how many people are overweight.

It has not always been this way.  Back in 1962, only 13 percent of all Americans were obese.

But now overeating is a national sport.  At this point, approximately 36 percent of all Americans are obese, and it is being projected that number will rise to 42 percent by 2030.

While we are gorging ourselves with food, what else do we like to do?

That’s right – we love to watch television.  In fact, the average American watches 28 hours of television every single week.

We have become completely and totally addicted to entertainment, and we have become trained to be constantly “plugged in” to something.

Our lives have become all about constantly feeding our greed and our selfishness.  In fact, that is a major reason for the breakdown of the family in America.  We tend to view marriage as a temporary condition that can be quickly discarded when it no longer makes us happy.

Sadly, the United States has the highest divorce rate in the world by a very wide margin at this point.

In addition, more Americans than ever are putting off marriage these days.  Young Americans are being told that “an education” and “a career” are more important.  According to the Pew Research Center, only 51 percent of all American adults are currently married.  Back in 1960, 72 percent of all adults in America were married.

As a result of these factors, we are an incredibly lonely nation.  Today, the United States has the highest percentage of one person households on the entire globe.

In order to fill the void, the American people turn to things that will numb the pain.  American use more legal drugs than anyone else on the planet and they also use more illegal drugs than anyone else on the planet.

We have more “stuff” than any other society in the history of the world has ever had, but it has not made us happy.

And how did we pay for all of this?

We paid for a lot of this with debt.  In fact, we have accumulated the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world.

During my lifetime, the debt of the U.S. government has gotten more than 30 times larger.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “27 Things That Every American Should Know About The National Debt“.

But the federal government is not the only one with a debt problem.  The truth is that our entire society is absolutely drowning in debt.

Over the past 50 years, the total amount of debt in the U.S. has grown from less than a trillion dollars to nearly 55 trillion dollars….

We have used massive amounts of debt in an attempt to feed our endless greed and materialism and we have gotten ourselves into a whole lot of trouble.

This is one of the reasons why I write.  I want people to understand how bad things have really gotten.

Thanks to our foolishness, our economy has been declining, it is going to continue to decline, and a massive economic collapse is coming.

Some people believe that this is a message of “doom and gloom”, but that is not the case at all.

Sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that somehow everything is going to be just fine is not going to do anyone any good.

Instead, I believe that warning people about the coming economic collapse is a message of hope.

There is hope in understanding what is happening, developing a plan to deal with it, and preparing yourself and your family for the storm that is coming.

It is the people that are ignoring all of the warnings that are going to be in real trouble.

Millions upon millions of people will be absolutely blindsided by what is coming.  Many will give in to total despair once they realize that their prosperity is gone and they have done nothing to prepare for what they are now facing.

My hope is that the information that I write about will be shocking enough that it will wake people up and motivate them to get prepared so that they can handle the incredibly challenging years that are ahead.

And the truth is that our lives should not be about our money and our stuff anyway.

Your possessions are just temporary.  None of them are going to last forever and you certainly cannot take them with you when you die.

Even though our economy has had some rough times, we still have a higher standard of living than 99 percent of the humans that have ever lived on this planet have had.

You would think that would be enough for us.

But it isn’t.  We have hoarded our wealth and we have lived in luxury and self-indulgence.

When our debt-fueled prosperity disappears, most Americans are not going to know how to handle it.

Most Americans will believe that their lives are “over” at that point.

But those that are not caught up in materialism and that have prepared for what is ahead will understand that the next chapters of their lives can be the greatest chapters of all.

The Worst Time Of The Year?

For a lot of Americans, this is the worst time of the year.  If you don’t have any money, it can be really hard to hear others go on and on about how good “Santa Claus” was to them this year.  For many, there is simply not much to be cheerful about as the year ends.  There are millions of people in this country that do not have a “happy family” to spend the holidays with, there are millions of people in this country that do not have any money to spend on gifts, and there are millions of people that are either already sleeping in the streets or that are in imminent danger of losing their homes.  It can be really difficult to feel “holiday cheer” when you are freezing cold and you don’t have any food in your stomach.  The realization that you are not going to enjoy any of the good things that other people get to enjoy this time of the year is enough to push many people over the edge.  Yes, for most of the country this time of the year is filled with food, family and fun but for millions of others this time of the year tends to magnify despair, depression and thoughts of suicide.  If you are blessed as we get ready to enter 2012, please remember those out there that are really hurting.  If someone does not help them, they might not make it to 2013.

In our society today, the “holiday season” is held up as the ultimate time of the year.  Often expectations are so high that they are almost impossible to fulfill.  The truth is that materialism is never going to bring anyone true fulfillment, and once Christmas is over many Americans are left with a very hollow feeling.

But all of the “Christmas hype” on television and in the movies can make it seem like this is a “magical” time of the year for most people.  For those that are in a tremendous amount of emotional pain, the holidays can be excruciating because they can feel as though they are “missing out” on all the fun and happiness that everyone else is experiencing.  That is why for many Americans that are “on the edge”, this can be the absolute worst time of the year.

When people go “over the edge”, the consequences can be devastating.

For example, have you noticed how there always seems to be a rash of murder-suicides at this time of the year?

One murder-suicide that made national headlines happened down in Texas.  It turns out that the killer actually dressed up as Santa Claus.  The following description of this stunning incident comes from an article posted on USA Today….

Police said the man they believe is responsible for a Christmas Day shooting that left him and six members of his extended family dead was dressed as Santa Claus.

Grapevine police spokesman Sgt. Robert Eberling said Monday the shooter “showed up shortly before the incident took place” in the Santa outfit and was a member of the family opening gifts in the apartment.

Could you imagine being killed by a family member dressed as Santa Claus?

But sometimes people do not snap in a family setting.  For some, it is the work environment that sets them off.  Just consider the following example from a recent article in the Washington Post….

A Southern California Edison employee chatted calmly with co-workers in the moments between gunning down four managers during a rampage at an office complex, authorities said as the building reopened Tuesday.

Investigators still were trying to determine what pushed gunman Andre Turner to finish a normal workday by shooting the workers with a semiautomatic handgun before turning it on himself.

We have also seen shocking murder-suicides reported in recent days in Illinois, in California, in Colorado and in Arizona.

Every year we also see reports of Christmas presents being stolen right out from under the tree.  The following comes from an article in the Los Angeles Times….

A Northern California family victimized in a burglary a few days before Christmas is hoping to at least get their dog back.

The Lancers lost all of the presents under the tree along with their dog when their home in Morgan Hill, southeast of San Jose, was broken into last week, authorities said Sunday.

There are a lot of people out there that do not have any hesitation about stealing from others.  Desperate people do desperate things, and right now the number of desperate people in America is growing.

Tonight, there are millions upon millions of Americans that cannot find work and that are incredibly stressed.  The truth is that there are not nearly enough jobs for everyone.  If the number of Americans considered to be “looking for work” was the same today as it was back in 2007, the “official” unemployment rate would be up to 11 percent.

But the Obama administration does not want to report such a depressing number.

8.6 percent just sounds so much more pleasant.

For even more crazy economic numbers that show just how bad the U.S. economy really was in 2011, just check out this article.

But of course our leaders are enjoying a good, long break from all of the “hard work” that they have put in toward fixing the economy.

Nancy Pelosi has jetted off to Hawaii and is spending her holidays in a suite that rents for $10,000 a night.

Barack Obama and his family are in Hawaii as well.  It has been estimated that their Hawaiian vacation will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 million dollars.

It is shameful that our “leaders” are enjoying such luxury at a time when so many millions of Americans are barely surviving.

One of the reasons why my site has struck such a nerve is because the pain that millions of Americans are going through right now is very real.

For example, the following is a comment that a reader identified as “Ricci” left on one of my recent articles….

I sleep in my car. I have nowhere else to go. It gets really cold and hurts my bones. I would love love love to go back to work but I was hospitalized 12 times in two years. I wouldn’t be able to keep a job because of my health i’m not dependable. THESE are the people who are homeless. It’s also a LOT of veterans that are homeless. But I sleep in my car. Often on family property and I’m still stalked and harassed by police and I’m sick of it.

In another comment, Ricci shared even more of her story….

Wow….do you really think that? I am a licensed social worker for 10 years. In 2005 I lost a son & daughter 3 hours after they were born. For 3 years I suffered in pain, still working my ass off, but found I was very ill. After chemo, immuno-suppressants, and a myriad of other medications I could not afford, I went bankrupt and lost my house. By this time, I was awarded disability on the first try w/o an attorney. I wasn’t expected to live. But here I am. I can barely move somedays I hurt so much. I don’t have family willing to take me in. I look fine on the outside you know. If I would just have more faith or exercise more or eat the right foods I would be cured. Whatever. I often worked 50 to 60 hours a week to protect kids from real problems (not taken away for poverty as people say……so sick of the myths about social services). Anyway, before that I worked mental health, and worked in the school district. I have busted my ass to care for other people. My husband left, children died, and when my health failed I lost everything and fell through the cracks. It’s people like me who are homeless…I do not drink. I do not use drugs. I can barely get the medications I need even w/ supplemental insurance. I get stalked and harassed by police if I so much as get tired and pull over so I don’t wreck. I was on my dad’s property in my car 3 times in two months I was approached by police…one time there were 4 cops that came to my car……on our family’s private property. My car has totally been profiled. I’m so sick of it. At this point, I would be better off dead.

So what do you say to someone like Ricci?

I have never slept in my car.  I have never lost a son or daughter.  I have never lost a house.  I have never been homeless.

How can I identify with someone who has gone through all of that?

But we do need to tell people like Ricci not to ever give up.   The vast majority of us have been at very low points in our own lives, and the secret is to keep on fighting and to never, ever give up.  No matter how bad things get, they can always be turned around if you will just have faith.

We should remember to pray for people like Ricci and the millions of other Americans that are going through similar trials.  We should also look for ways to help people that are really hurting in our own communities.

Yes, we cannot possibly rescue everyone is hurting.  But what we can do is love the one that is in front of us.

Unfortunately, our economic problems are only going to get worse.  America is in the middle of a long-term decline that is rapidly accelerating.  That means that there are going to be lots more people that are going to lose their jobs and their homes.

So let us do what we can to focus on real world solutions and to focus on preparing for the hard times that are coming.

We waste so much time on unnecessary things.  For example, did you know that there are over 695,000 status updates on Facebook every single minute?

Every 60 seconds.

Amazing.

As bad as 2011 was, it looks like 2012 is going to be significantly worse.  It won’t be the end of the world of course, but huge challenges are ahead.  Now is the time to get our priorities in order and to start focusing on the things that really matter.

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