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Credit cards: Research suggests they're addictive in the U.S.

Credit card debt trouble; it's something everyone wants to avoid but which nearly everyone gets into at some point. Whether you live in Illinois or not, chances are good you know what's in your wallet and it includes at least one form of plastic. And odds are about as good that you're carrying a balance forward month to month.

This isn't something to be ashamed of. In fact, experts widely acknowledge that if you don't have a credit card you are not normal. Through all the ups and downs the economy has been through in the past decade or so one thing that has remained very much the same are consumer credit card habits. The habits are so ingrained that some call card useĀ America's addiction.

On the bright side, debt relief and rehabilitation are possible. Overwhelming, unsecured credit card debt can be erased any number of ways. One may be by seeking the protections of bankruptcy.

Whether you agree with the description that credit card is an addiction, the data from a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston does seem to support the notion to some degree.

By sampling credit reports of some 5 percent of all U.S. consumers from 2000 to 2014, the analysts were confident concluding that:

  1. Lifelong credit card debt is the norm. Sixty-five percent of card users carry balances month to month. Those who pay off balances monthly account for just 35 percent of the sample. The level of credit borrowing may decline in later years, but even the typical 80-year-old carries a balance of more than $600.

  2. Most get hooked in their 20s. Experts suggest low earnings might be a reason for this. Young people don't make enough to save much and so they count on rising credit limits to cover their emergencies.

  3. Once set, credit habits remain steady. The pattern may vary from person to person, but typically one's boundaries get set and stay that way over time. Unexpected emergencies might cause a bump in the line, but it's usually temporary.

  4. Bank controls affect borrowing more than consumer confidence. The study finds that if banks offer credit, consumers take it. If they scale it back, belts tighten.

Of nothing else, this presents great food for thought.

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