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AARP Bulletin Survey on Consumer Debt and Loans: Executive Summary

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AARP commissioned a nationwide survey looking at the amount and type of debt or loans that consumers carry. The survey examined whether adults had credit card debt, loans and other forms of outstanding financial obligations.  It also asked respondents whether or not they had taken actions to reduce their debt or loan balances.

This executive summary notes that those age 18-49 and those age 50+ do not differ in regard to their levels of debt and their ability to take action to reduce these financial obligations, although more older respondents have retired their student loans than younger respondents.

Key survey findings include:

  • Seventy percent of respondents report having some form of debt or loan obligation: 73% of those age 18-49 and 60% of those age 50+. The difference between age groups is mainly attributable to the 25% of those age 18-49 who have student loan debt compared with only 5% of those age 50 and older.
  • Thirty percent of respondents report having credit card balances that are not paid in full every month.
  • Of those with debt, four in ten have monthly debt obligations that are greater than half of their monthly income. 
  • One in 10 respondents report having filed for bankruptcy or having considered filing for bankruptcy.
  • Forty six percent of those that report having debts or loans have tried to reduce the amount that they spend or owe over the last six months.  Seventy percent of respondents say they have put purchases on a debit card or paid cash, rather than use their credit cards. The same percentage (70%) says they have cut down on expenses such as eating out, purchasing consumer goods, and taking vacations.  Fewer (55%) report paying more than the minimum balance on their credit card each month; even fewer (21%) report negotiating better terms with their creditors.

The study was conducted for AARP via telephone by ICR, an independent research company.  Interviews were conducted during May 28-31, 2009, among a nationally representative sample of 1,005 respondents aged 18 and older. For more information, contact Gerard Rainville at 202-434-6295. 3 pages)

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