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Survey: 3 in 10 U.S. workers have more credit card debt than retirement savings

Daniel Ray

Here’s the scariest credit card statistic I’ve seen this month:

Nearly three in 10 American workers say they have more credit card debt than retirement savings.

retire.gifThat’s from a new report titled “The Anxious American Worker,” published this month by Rutgers University’s John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development. The survey questions were asked in May 2008 of a statistically representative sample of 1,000 Americans, 587 of whom were in the work force at the time of the survey. The margin of error for the full survey group is plus or minus 3.1 percent.

Not surprisingly, workers in better-paying jobs reported they were more likely to have more socked away for retirement than credit card debt. Just 17 percent of those earning more than $75,000 reported having more credit card debt than retirement savings. For those earning less than $35,000, that number is a shocking 51 percent.

Other striking findings from the survey include:

  • More than one person in three — 37 percent — say they don’t have enough money to make ends meet, with that percentage rising to 69 percent of those earning less than $35,000 a year.
  • Only a bare majority — 51 percent — say they are confident they will have saved enough to retire when the time comes.
  • Thirteen percent of the workforce say they have been laid off from a job in the past three years; twice this number (28%) say that others in their firm or workplace have been laid off over this same period.
  • Fifteen percent say they anticipate layoffs in their company in the next 12 months.
  • One worker in three acknowledges concern over personal job security, with 13 percent saying they’re very concerned and 22 percent somewhat concerned.
  • Only half are working the number of hours they want to work; one-third are working either more or fewer hours than they were just three months ago.

The surveyors combined the responses into an “Anxiety Index,” a numerical scale of work-related anxiety, with 0 representing no stress and 5 severe stress.

The Anxiety Index “reveals an alarming percentage of Americans experiencing serious anxiety and distress,” the report concludes, with the national average Anxiety Index number coming in at 1.8 percent. “Overall, the survey results paint a troubling picture of economic and job insecurity, framed by worry and uncertainty over what the future holds,” survey authors said in a news release.

If I were one of the people with more credit card debt than savings, I’d be anxious, too.

Hat tip: Walletpop

See related: Poll says people scale back card use in a changed economy

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  • Lisa

    I lost my job of 21 years that I loved dearly due to diseases/disability. Led to selling the house, moving into a 5th wheel travel trailer (paid with mutual fund) and no longer having medical insurance. In Florida it takes 19-20 months for Medicare to activate; thank goodness for having a Master card that we had to survive on for medication, groceries and gas. Me being sick with auto-immune diseases and my husband not bringing home a check in over 4 months. Okay,sorry; my question is: since the percentage has been dropped another half percent, .5 to 1.5% why in the world can’t this be applied to those of us who need dire help with extreme credit card debt like those who needed help with mortgages? They are getting a lot of help in the form of 25% forgiveness to make their payments but yet those of who knew we could not afford a home; are having to deal with higher percentage rights from on credit cards i.e. 11% to 19% just to survive!
    7 billion was just handed out so they really do not need our payments on 19-23%, a payment matching a home mortgage and give us forgiveness! Attorney Generals and the Treasury need to make this a quick decision for those of us who had high credit ratings for over 20 years and more. Don’t punish us for trying to survive due to others mistakes!

  • kalyn

    I totally agree, I have only 2 credit cards, I have $1100 to $1500 balance on each card, I make more than the min payment each month & my payments are always on time. Today, I recv emails from both creditors that they had reviewed my accounts and decided to lower my credit line to $148. I don’t know what I did wrong, my balances are not huge I had credit lines of $13K now I have nothing..It’s not my fault the economy is bad but I feel like I am being penalized..How is this helping the economy to cut people’s credit off literally? I use these cards for travel & now I have nothing..The creditors are sqeezing the life out of what was the middle class…

  • Lois

    I totally agree also. Amazing that the government can bail out Wall Street, but we on Main Street have to stress about how to pay our bills. Bank of America increased my interest rate from 9.9% to 24.9 % in the twinkling of an eye. Sad to say that the “golden years” are severely tarnished as many of us will probably have to resort to bankruptcy to survive.
    There is no middle class anymore – just the rich and the poor!!!