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  • Writer's picturePhil Kennedy

Credit Card Companies are Scared

My grandmother always referred to it as "the plate." For her, digging out thē credit card (formerly called a charge plate) to pay for a meal or service did not happen too often. It was such an infrequent occurrence, one of her kids would inevitably comment on it. A graduation dinner or other special occasion would come along, and one of them would say, "Oh look, she's pulling out the plate." Other than that, the woman never went into debt for anything.

Grandma May May with Baby Nate

Growing up poor in Ireland during the Depression, and raising eight kids in the Bronx, tends to make one frugal. Even while going through my adolescence in the 80s, I constantly remember her saying things like, "save for a rainy day," and "don't spend it all in one place." She was such a stickler about this; she even helped me open my first bank account. Unfortunately, her boomer children did not inherit this frugality, and neither did their entire generation. Things may be changing, though.

According to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal, "Americans are paying down their credit-card debt at levels not seen in years...Capital One said that nearly half of the credit-card balances it had at the beginning of March were paid off by the end of the month, which the company described as historically high." The situation is becoming so desperate that some big banks may consider offering credit cards to those lacking credit scores.

In the first quarter of 2021, credit card balances collapsed by their second-largest decrease in the data history, which goes back to 1999. My household is doing what we can to hasten their collapse. For years we had our USAA card attached to our Amazon account for the "essentials." The combination of a missing budget and one-click shopping makes this a recipe for financial disaster. We finally got tired of all the needless purchases, so we got back on a strict budget using the Every Dollar app. A simple pen/paper or spreadsheet will do, but the app has rejuvenated our desire to sit down and make our monthly zero-based budget.

We may be taking the last year for granted since we're still living through it, but COVID could prove to be the equivalent of the 1929 stock market crash. Parents of the boomers, the GIs, knew that a rainy day could come because they had lived through one that lasted a decade. Americans collectively took a step back to assess their financial landscape, and they didn't like the picture. They are now pulling their financial weeds at a rate that might make the Greatest Generation proud.

If you are dealing with a money pain that you can't seem to fix, maybe I can help with that. Feel free to sign up on my calendar, and we can talk about it at your convenience. If now is not a good time, and you made it to the bottom of this email, then replying with a "no for now" would also be appreciated.

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