July 22, 2017

Pace of Consumer Borrowing Rose in May

Americans stepped up their borrowing by $19.6 billion in May compared with April, the Federal Reserve said on Monday in its monthly report on consumer credit. That was the biggest jump since a $19.9 billion rise in May 2012.

Total borrowing reached a record $2.84 trillion.

The category that includes credit card use rose $6.6 billion, also the largest gain in a year. Credit card debt reached $847.1 billion, the most since September 2010. Credit card debt remains about 16 percent below its high of $1.02 trillion in July 2008 — just before the financial crisis erupted.

Borrowing for autos and student loans rose $13 billion in May. That was the sharpest increase since February. This category of borrowing has been rising especially fast, driven by loans to pay for college.

The Fed’s consumer credit report does not separate student loans from auto loans. But data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that student loan debt has been the biggest driver of borrowing since the recession officially ended. In part, that is because some unemployed Americans have returned to school for training in hopes of landing a job.

Despite the increase in credit card debt in May, consumers are not likely to raise their card use to prerecession levels, said Cooper Howes, an economist at Barclays Research. “We expect the trends of student loan-driven expansion,” Mr. Howes said, “and only small changes in revolving credit to continue in coming months.”

The measure of credit card debt in the Fed’s report has risen $15.8 billion this year. That compares with annual increases from $25 billion to $50 billion in credit card debt before the recession, which officially began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009.

Consumers increased their spending from January through March but reduced the pace of their savings to finance it. After-tax income dropped in the first quarter.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/09/business/economy/pace-of-consumer-borrowing-climbs-a-sign-of-confidence.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Your Money: Financial Opposites Try to Tackle Finances Together

And boy, did Ms. Bartone, a 32-year-old legal recruiter, and Mr. Bartone, a 43-year-old bartender, have a lot to talk about. I was in their living room, in North Bergen, N.J., to witness it all as part of a “fiscal health day” exercise, where I promised to spend several hours helping readers organize their financial life.

The goal of our meeting was to try to reconcile their different money philosophies before they opened a joint bank account to handle their household expenses. They needed to figure out a way to track Mr. Bartone’s earnings, most of them in cash, which they were not entirely sure of. She also wanted a better way to track their spending (and overspending). And both of them had accumulated significant credit card debt, which had to be tackled before they could begin to think about saving for a house.

“Financially, we are opposites,” said Mr. Bartone, who has a sleeve of colorful tattoos that climb from each wrist to his elbows. “Total, total, total opposites.”

Both of them were honest about their financial behavior: Mr. Bartone acknowledged that he was the spender. Ms. Bartone described herself as determined and goal-oriented, and said she had saved significant sums in the past. But they now owe more than $30,000 on credit cards, a topic that Ms. Bartone said she had avoided broaching. So they had not had the tough talk about how best to stanch the bleeding and work on a joint plan to get out of debt. “I have been really cautious about not stepping on his pride,” she added.

But they volunteered to put it all on the table for their personal fiscal health day, the brainchild of my colleague Ron Lieber, which involves setting aside a full day to fine-tune finances and make headway on the money-related tasks that never seem to get done. I asked readers on the Bucks blog to submit their pleas, with the promise that I would meet with the candidate with the most compelling story.

Nearly 100 readers responded, many of them needing something more like an overhaul than a financial tuneup. There were tales of paralyzing student loan and credit card debts and crushing medical bills, as well as pleas from single people and young families hoping to do better than live paycheck to paycheck. Some lost their jobs in the recession, and had gotten new, lower-paying work and were trying to figure out how to live on less.

I chose the Bartones in part because their financial issues are all too common. Ms. Bartone, who has curly brown hair and a contagious smile, wanted to make sure she and her husband were on the same financial page and to set priorities on their financial to-do list. She also felt it would help to have a neutral third party to walk them through the process given that they are financial opposites. She calls herself neurotic and keeps spreadsheets. He puts his cash tips in a kitchen drawer.

Here is what we managed to get done in one afternoon:

MONEY TALK  The biggest accomplishment, by far, was having the newlyweds sit down at their dining room table to actually talk about their financial life, their differing outlooks and how their views were influenced by their upbringings. This was a huge step. My suggestion, unromantic as it may sound, was to make the money talk a weekly ritual, at least until they learned more about their income and spending patterns and made progress on paying down their debts.  

CREDIT CARD DEBT The couple have lived together for several years, yet each still did not know exactly how much debt the other had. So Ms. Bartone created two lists of each of their credit cards, along with the outstanding balances and interest rates. She has already started to pay down the cards with the highest rates first, and she said she would help her husband set up his own plan of attack. But she had a good question: since the interest rates on Mr. Bartone’s cards were more than twice as high as hers, should she focus on paying down his debt first?

I told her she could not enable his behavior, particularly if he did not start to control his spending. But I also contacted an expert after I left — Kristin Harad, of VitaVie Financial Planning, who had seen this situation many times before.

“Creating healthy habits as a unit is paramount,” she said, since they are building a future together. So yes, they should focus on paying down Mr. Bartone’s debt first. But that also means Mr. Bartone needs to remove the plastic from his wallet (and frankly, the financial planner said, so does Ms. Bartone). They should use only cash and debit cards and stow the rest of the cards away. (We will talk about how they managed to accumulate their debt below.)

CREDIT SCORES The couple said they did not know each other’s credit scores, though the topic had come up from time to time. “She’s always asking me mine,” Mr. Bartone said.

We decided it was a good idea to check their scores, even though it would cost them $40. After I left, the couple purchased their scores through MyFico.com, which costs $19.95 a score. Though several factors determine your FICO score, outstanding credit card debt can pull it down. Even with their debts, however, their scores weren’t too bad: Mr. Bartone’s was 697 and Ms. Bartone’s was a respectable 732 (on a scale of 300 to 850). Ms. Bartone already pulls a free credit report from each of the three major credit agencies each year at annualcreditreport.com to be sure there are no mistakes, since she has found errors in the past. She promised to help Mr. Bartone do the same.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/27/your-money/financial-opposites-try-to-tackle-finances-together.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bucks: Tuesday Reading: Student Loans Outpace Credit Card Debt

April 12

Tuesday Reading: Student Loans Outpace Credit Card Debt

Students take on more college debt, gas is topping $4 a gallon, a cheaper Kindle thanks to ads and other consumer-focused news from The New York Times.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=d2226e00266782f52bb3adb1af4438a8