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Almost everyone has their taboo topics, subjects we avoid discussing to prevent awkward (or catastrophic) family gatherings or uncomfortable arguments among friends. Such topics usually invoke strong feelings, such as politics and religion or private matters, like one’s love life.
For Gen Z (ages 18 to 24), however, one of the most sensitive topics is credit card debt. Young Americans would rather discuss their personal life, religious and political views—or almost anything else–than their credit card balances.
Credit card debt remains a taboo topic across generations
According to a recent Bankrate survey, credit card debt is one of the most uncomfortable topics for Gen Z. Only 59 percent of Gen Z with credit card debt don’t mind talking about it with friends and family. The only other subject this generation is less likely to want to discuss is their weight, with 55 percent of respondents comfortable enough to talk about it.
That’s right. Gen Zers who carry debt would rather discuss their love life than how much they owe on their credit cards. Granted, Gen Z, in general, is more comfortable talking about romance in their lives than older generations. It appears the desire to discuss that subject declines with age.
Clearly, young Americans have their own sensitive subjects. But even though credit card debt is one of them, they’re more likely to discuss it than older generations.
Most millennials with credit card debt (62 percent) don’t mind talking about it with friends and family—the highest such number among all the generations. To compare, only 51 percent of Gen X (ages 41 to 56), 47 percent of baby boomers (ages 57 to 75) and 41 percent of the silent generation (ages 76 to 93) with credit card debt are willing to discuss it.
This shows that even though debt is still an uncomfortable topic, young people are less prone to be cautious of its stigma. This is a positive development. Credit card debt isn’t something to be ashamed of.
In 2020, the average credit card balance was at $5,135, which shows just how prevalent the issue of credit card debt is. To reduce this average, it’s important to keep an open conversation about possible solutions, as well as educate and support each other without judgment.
Tips for paying off credit card debt
Credit card debt can sneak up on you quickly, thanks to cards’ high APRs. Besides interest charges, credit card debt often comes with financial anxiety and other highly unpleasant psychological effects.
Financial anxiety stems from feeling like you have no control over your financial circumstances. The best way to gain control is to self-educate and create a plan to battle debt and improve your financial situation.
Solutions for tackling credit card debt include the following:
- Analyze your spending patterns. Be honest with yourself and think about what led you to accrue debt in the first place. Was it an emergency you had no funds to cover right away? I strongly recommend starting an emergency fund. Have you shopped a bit too enthusiastically? It’s time to work on your budget and get overspending under control.
- Pick a debt repayment strategy. It’s best to be methodical when paying off debt. You can try the “avalanche” method where you pay off cards with the highest APRs first to save on interest, or the “snowball” method where you tackle the lowest balances first to keep yourself motivated.
- Look into a balance transfer card. If your credit is in good shape despite high credit card balances, a balance transfer card can be an excellent option. A balance transfer allows you to move balances from high-interest credit cards to a card with a 0 percent intro APR on balance transfers. This way, you can save on interest charges. The main thing is to finish paying off your debt before the intro period ends. Currently, you can find cards offering balance transfer periods as long as 21 months.
- Pay with a debit card. This is not advice I often give. However, if you’re already in credit card debt, it’s best to avoid adding to it until all your credit card balances are at $0. Plus, this will help you get used to planning for purchases and spending within your means.
Get $10,000 to pay down your debt
At Bankrate, we’re committed to fighting credit card debt stigma and helping our readers on their journey to a debt-free future.
And we’d like to help with more than financial education. Through Oct. 16, 2021, you can participate in “Drop Your Debt Sweepstakes” for a chance to win $10,000 to help you battle your debt. All you need to do is create a free Bankrate account and complete your profile. By doing this, you’ll also get access to our learning content, handy financial tools and more.
You can get additional entries by connecting your accounts (like credit cards and brokerage accounts) and taking our financial quiz. All these features are also free.
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The bottom line
Gen Z and millennials are more cautious than older generations about bringing up potentially sensitive topics, such as politics, religion and COVID-19 protocols. Credit card debt is also an uncomfortable subject for young Americans, but it’s one of the few taboos they’re more likely to discuss, compared to Gen X, baby boomers and the silent generation.
This demonstrates that millennials and Gen Z may be less prone to feeling shame over their credit card debt. It’s a good sign as credit card debt shouldn’t be a sensitive topic. By having open conversations about solutions to this problem, we can contribute to eliminating the stigma and help each other on the path to a more secure financial future.