Student credit card debt outpaces inflation

By , CardRatings contributor
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The job market may recover, but the credit of a young generation of Americans remains in jeopardy, according to a report issued this month by TD Economics.

The research team, funded by the global TD Bank Group, warns that credit card debt among American college students has "ballooned" faster than the rate of inflation. Without targeted training in household math, budgeting and personal finance, a wave of young graduates may face years of restricted access to the best insurance, mortgage and credit card deals.

Economists Craig Alexander, James Marple and Chris Jones reviewed statistics from Sallie Mae, the U.S. Department of Education and the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland for their report, available for free from the TD Bank Group's website. Changing relationships between employers and the workforce require most Americans to save for retirement instead of relying on defined benefit pension plans. Yet, the report's authors uncovered evidence that most students can barely cover their current expenses, often neglecting retirement savings.

Customer service can save young citizens from a lifetime of debt

The study's authors suggest that a lack of accountability enables young Americans to dive deeply into debt with little understanding of how defaulted credit cards and student loans can impact future life choices. Instead of making financial sacrifices while still in school, more than half of American college students carry balances on four or more credit cards. Sallie Mae's data suggests that American families avoid talking about money at home, leaving many students without a strong basis on which to make financial decisions.

The report points out that neighborhood bank branches and other local financial institutions can play important roles in educating young consumers. Introducing bankers and financial educators into the lives of very young Americans can drive stronger math and reasoning skills, the authors say. Combining formal financial literacy programs in middle and high school with personal mentoring from banking professionals can make money management less intimidating, according to the report.

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