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House of Cards?: Is nation's addiction to credit card debt sustainable?

House of Cards?: Is nation's addiction to credit card debt sustainable?

May 30th, 2018 by Gazette Staff in Opinion Editorial

The New York Federal Reserve has some sobering news for Americans drunk on debt.

According to a recent report, Texans managed to accumulate $67.3 billion—that's "billion" with a B—in credit card debt as of the end of 2017.

California leads the nation, with $106.8 billion. That glamorous West Coast lifestyle comes at a steep price.

Florida follows Texas with $59.2 billion. New York is next with $58.1 billion.

Arkansas didn't make the Top 10 in total debt, but there is some bad news for the Natural State as well. Arkansas ranks No. 5 in the nation in credit card 90-day-or-more delinquency rates. Texas follows at No. 6. California, top state in overall credit card debt, is just a tad behind at No. 7.

The New York Federal Reserve says American households owe about $13.21 trillion. That's not just credit cards, but includes mortgages, car notes, student loans and other debts. But we owe a collective $1 trillion or more just on the plastic and a couple of trillion more in other unsecured debt. Those are staggering numbers on their own.

The question is whether it's sustainable—meaning we can continue to scrape by scraping by—or whether it will all come crashing down on us, much like the housing crash 10 years ago when millions of Americans—including some right here in Texarkana—lost their homes, jobs and retirement savings.

We don't know the answer. We do, however, see red flags. Debt keeps rising, and incomes for many remain stagnant. That means a whole lot of us are living way beyond our means.

There is always a reckoning down the road. How long that road may be is anyone's guess. But in our view, the wisest course for anyone is to get their financial house in order. A strong foundation could get you past a future storm.

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