Young Americans Shun Credit, and the Credit Cards Want Them Back
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. consumers are largely doing a better job handling credit -- a direct result of the economic downturn and Americans' collective desire to add to savings and curb debt.
But there is one demographic avoiding debt altogether, and that bodes well for their long-term financial futures.
First things first, though: Fresh data from Fitch Ratings (password protected) says personal bankruptcies are down, even though U.S. consumers are once again taking out loans and using more credit.
According to Fitch, personal bankruptcies declined by 14% last year, and the firm estimates they will fall by another 7% this year. But consumer credit rose last year by 6%, to about $3 trillion, with two-thirds of that coming directly from student loan and auto debt.
The dip in the bankruptcy rate, even at a time credit usage is up, shows that U.S. consumers have learned their lesson and are paying off their debts on a more aggressive basis.
"Though consumers are taking out a record number of car and student loans, they continue to do a commendable job of paying that debt off," says Michael Dean, managing director at Fitch. "Momentum in both the housing and equity markets should also help drive personal bankruptcies lower."
Yet there is one demographic resisting adding to their debt burden: younger consumers.
Auriemma Consulting Group says younger consumers (defined as those 35 and under) are leaving the credit cards at home and have successfully weaned themselves off pricey plastic purchases. If they do make a big purchase, Auriemma says, younger buyers use debit cards and pay off the purchase immediately.
One reason is old-fashioned financial prudence -- young consumers have seen firsthand the damage debt has done to their parents and are looking to avoid the same mistake. But Auriemma also says the 35-and-under crowd is having a tougher time getting credit as the economies in Europe and the U.S. slowly recover from recession.
All told, 44% of younger consumers surveyed by Auriemma say they have "no interest" in having credit cards as their primary source of financial payments.