Good News Meets Bad News on Credit Card Debt Versus Emergency Savings

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Maybe statistics really can show whatever side of an argument someone wants to make. If you heard that there has been zero progress since 2011 in emergency savings versus credit card debt over the past four years, it probably sounds bad. If you hear that the percentage of Americans with more credit card debt than emergency savings hit a six-year low, maybe it sounds good.

A fresh survey from Bankrate.com showed that 52% of Americans have more emergency savings than credit card debt. This is the same percentage as it was in 2011, which suggests that no progress has been made during the same time the stock market continued to rise and unemployment fell handily.

The Financial Security Index rose to 103.0, which was said to be highest level since November. This gain was tied to better job security, a comfort with debt, higher net worth and better overall financial situations.

The percentage of Americans with no credit card debt, but no savings either, rose handily to 21% from 13% from just a year ago. The positive view here is that only 22% of Americans now have more credit card debt than emergency savings, which was this component’s lowest reading in six years.

What should be alarming about the savings rate is this:

Unemployment is at an 8-year low of 4.9% and average hourly and weekly earnings saw an uptick in the latest unemployment report, but despite that, the data also show that Americans aren’t increasing their savings.

Bankrate showed that millennials are now more likely than any other age group to have more emergency savings than credit card debt. Their view is that this group learned from the mistakes of their parents and are more cautious about savings. Bankrate also pointed out that millennials have an aversion to credit cards.

Several other age-based and demographic generalizations were seen here. Bankrate noted that older generations more likely to carry credit card debt, and lower-income households more likely to have no credit card debt. Those with household incomes of $75,000 or higher were shown to be twice as likely as households with income of less than $30,000 to have emergency savings that is larger than their credit card debt.