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How Has America's Financial Health Changed In The Last 30 Years?

Feb 12, 2008
The answer to that lies in remembering just what we were like in the late seventies, and where we are now. There may be many who are not old enough to remember that time, and what our finances were like. Those of us who do, compare these two times with a mixture of nostalgia and good riddance. Let's look at a slice of life back in the late seventies.

A loaf of bread cost .32 cents, a gallon of gas .65 cents, and the average home sold for around $58,000. We were but two years out of Vietnam, three from having removed a sitting president from office, and Elvis Presley and Bing Crosby both leave this world with tunes still ringing in our ears.

Star Wars brought outer space into our every day lexicon. The average income was a little over $10,000, and Visa and MasterCard are just now entering mainstream consciousness with the advent of electronic payment processing.

Credit card debt was largely unknown as consumers didn't have the ability or wherewithal to rack up many thousands of dollars in debt, as the cards were not as readily available. After Congress enacted legislation in 1974 to stop banks from sending unsolicited live cards to anyone with an address, the process of acquiring a credit card became a little tougher.

Consumers in the late seventies were by and large cash and carry group, a product of their parents' generation, when consumer credit accounts were virtually unheard of. They paid cash or wrote a check for their purchases, or they waited until they could afford the item in question. There were department store cards on the installment plans, but credit cards where you could borrow money at will were not part of the scene.

Fast forward thirty years. There are many more credit card issuing banks than ever before, and other types of installment loans are on the scene, making it easier than ever to acquire and use unsecured credit. Now it's possible to finance startup businesses, make movies, and build additions to your home or almost anything else one can imagine with the inventive use of consumer credit.

A person with a good credit profile and not too much previously extended credit can ratchet up a large credit line and then abuse said line in no time at all, often finding themselves with a debt load unsupportable by their current income. It's never in history been easier to rack up such a large bill that is largely unchecked.

This has resulted in a generation that has amassed the largest consumer debt in history, and is showing the strain of having to pay all this back at some point. With credit so easily available and debt so ridiculously easy to accumulate, it's no wonder Americans are struggling under a consumer credit debt load of some $2.44 trillion dollars. It's clear this is no longer your momma's credit card!
About the Author
Are debt consolidators the right solution for your debt problems? Find out how it can affect your financial health at the Debtopedia website. Visit http://www.debtopedia.com for more information and to get your free copy of my report on credit card debt.
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