Even though Americans spent 2012 reducing their net credit card debt in every quarter, for the full year net credit card debt rose by $36.2 billion. That is 21% lower than the $45.87 billion in net debt at the end of 2011, but about eight times the amount of debt at the end of 2010 and 35 times net credit card debt at the end of 2009.
The data was published today by CardHub.com and comes with some cautionary statements from the company’s CEO. For example:
We’re still falling into the dark pit that is debt; we’ve simply managed to create a bit of drag in order to slow our descent. In short, something needs to change soon or we’re in for some serious problems in the near future.
People seem to think that since we’re seeing a bit of economic recovery, we can all simply revert back to pre-recession spending habits. No. Pre-recession spending was inextricably tied to the housing bubble and unless those economic conditions redevelop, we simply won’t be able to sustain current spending levels.
We think there will be warning signs for impending calamity, but almost like with a tsunami, when the warning signs come, it’s too late to get out of dodge. According to Card Hub data, all that must happen for there to be widespread consumer defaults is a 20% increase in current credit card debt.
Strapped consumers are not only running up more credit card debt, but withdrawals from 401(k)s and IRAs have increased also, and one study indicated that 73% of the households making the withdrawals do so to balance their household budgets. This is not good news.
The Card Hub report is available here.