Americans are setting more and more records with credit card use, but few of them are cause for much celebration. Last spring, we hit our highest level yet of revolving debt, which mostly springs from credit card use (the magic number: more than $1 trillion). Now we have some data on how credit cards affect us personally, and the news could certainly be better.
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CNBC crunched some numbers from a recent report by the website NerdWallet and came to a dispiriting conclusion: Credit cards are a huge psychic weight for Americans to carry. Almost 40 percent of consumers with credit card debt said it actually affected their general happiness levels. About 20 percent said it had material effects on their health; for one-third of respondents, credit card debt took a toll on their standard of living.
Just 57 percent of cardholders are able to pay off their balance each month; for the remaining 43 percent, it's a race against time to pay off what they can, now with an onerous interest rate. The NerdWallet research found that an average household pays between $900 and $1,300 a year in interest.
Even your best efforts to manage your debt can go off the rails. While some suggest consolidating your debt, that only works well if you have good credit and only a modest amount of debt. If you're an average American household, that can mean you're facing $16,000 of credit card debt alone.
The numbers are bleak, but not hopeless. If you're struggling with credit card debt, consider making your debt reduction plan fun (no, really!). Research suggests we're happiest paying off large chunks of long-term debt through balance forgiveness programs; you might also qualify for a zero-interest credit card, which banks are offering more and more. Debt is objectively soul-sucking, as this data shows, but it doesn't have to own you, and it can have an end date.