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Get Out of Debt

27.05.2008Drowning in credit card debt?

With more than 14 million credit and charge cards in use across this wide brown land, it's fair to say Australians love their plastic.


By Natalie Bochenski

With more than 14 million credit and charge cards in use across this wide brown land, it’s fair to say Australians love their plastic. Reserve Bank figures for February this year showed total Australian credit card debt grew 9 per cent to $43.25 billion dollars, with the average credit card balance now $4000.

Often, paying down a credit card can seem like a Sisyphean task, and failure to pay it off at the end of each month can leave you feeling guilty or ashamed of your perceived financial mismanagement. Geoff Munck, of independent debt counselling firm Debt Helpline (www.debthelpline.com.au) says blame will only serve to stop you recognising the problem and finding a solution. “It’s become an economic necessity that we use consumer credit,” he says. “Like many western nations our capacity to produce has way outstripped our capacity to consume on our wages, and consumer credit helps us fill that void.”

From the credit providers’ point of view, credit cards are an investment choice. “They’re choosing to put an amount of money in your hands, on the expectation of receiving somewhere between 11 and 29 per cent return on it,” says Munck. “Consumers will always spend up to their perceived level of resources, and in fact, the financial sector is relying on it.”

Sure, there’s an element of personal responsibility. Blowing your limit on hi-tech gadgets or designer shoes is not wise. But Munck says most people run into credit card difficulty because life happens – jobs are lost, relationships breakdown, cars & houses need repair, children require medical treatment. “Anybody can find themselves in financial difficulty by virtue of the fact they wake up and participate in the world.”

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