New survey shows Americans' relationship with debt

According to the newly released results of the nationwide LendingTree Smart Borrower Survey, 48 percent of those polled said they were uncomfortable with the amount of household debt they carry and 50 percent said they were concerned or extremely concerned about the amount of credit card debt they have. However, even though 74 percent of respondents said they envision themselves eventually becoming completely debt free (outside of their mortgage), 54 percent said they have no financial plan.

“There’s no question that the seemingly contradictory results indicate the need for consumers to become better educated about how to manage debt,” says Bridget Smith, editor-in-chief of the LendingTree Smart Borrower Center.

Of those surveyed who had less than $3,000 in credit card debt, nearly 30 percent said they had an overall financial plan. However, only 4 percent of those who had over $30,000 in credit card debt said they had a plan. So, while Smith says it’s great news that so many people share the goal of becoming debt-free, she points out that the overall responses of those polled show that many aren’t making wise choices when it comes to managing their debt.

“When many people think about what they need to do to get control of their finances, they only consider their budget. But they also should make sure they have the information they need to make smart borrowing decisions. Loans today can be very complex and there’s a lot of choice out there. It’s more important than ever to become educated about the differences between various products so you can choose the one that’s best suited to your particular needs.”

Smith recommends that consumers use resources such as those found in the LendingTree Smart Borrower Center before making major borrowing decisions. “Our aim is to provide consumers with engaging articles and easy-to-use calculators that take the pain out of learning about personal finance.”

“We learned from the survey that there was a significant difference in the responses between various age groups and that young families have the highest debt-to-income ratio and the most discomfort with their debt level,” says Smith. “What’s really unfortunate is this group is young and they are raising families with debt that they simply do not understand how to manage and this could manifest into a generational pattern. As a result, we’re in the process of developing specific tools designed to help those in this life stage.”

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