Are Americans Still Overspending?

The answer appears to be…yes.

A recent examination of consumer debts as a percentage of median income shows that American consumers may still be overspending, despite making recent gains in personal savings and consumer debt reduction. According to Forbes magazine, consumers in 20 key metropolitan areas owe a significant portion of their annual income to credit card issuers, leading a growing number of them to seek out help with credit card debt from credit card debt settlement services, debt consolidation programs, credit counseling, and other debt relief options.

The survey, which compared average household credit card debt to median income, showed that residents of these 20 cities owed between 13.6% and 22.6% of the median household income to credit card issuers. Miami residents, with a median income of $43,333, owed an average of $9,797 to credit card issuers, suggesting that even as some American consumers are paying down debts and increasing personal savings, residents in some areas aren’t weaning themselves from credit card spending and will likely continue to find themselves in need of relief.

Certain cities that made the list also have significant problems with foreclosures and job loss. According to RealtyTrac, Las Vegas is experiencing more foreclosures than any other metropolitan area in the country, with one out of every 56 homes receiving a foreclosure notice in April 2009. In addition, airlines report taking 12% fewer passengers to Las Vegas in March 2009 compared to March 2008. During the same time period, the cost of a hotel room in Las Vegas dropped by nearly one-third, and convention attendance there has decreased by 30%.

Perhaps in part due to the clear downturn in the city’s fortunes, Las Vegas landed at number nine on Forbes’ list of overspent locales. The city has a median income of $56,975 and an average household credit card debt of more than $8,600, meaning that the average resident of Las Vegas owes more than 15% of his or her annual median income to credit card issuers.

The authors of the Forbes study don’t offer suggestions on how to reduce credit card debt but say that the results indicate that some Americans haven’t yet reformed their spending habits. And as a steadily increasing stream of consumers veer toward bankruptcy, foreclosure, and programs that offer promises of debt relief, it’s clear that many Americans are still struggling with debt management and significant amounts of credit card debt.

Click here for the Forbes study.

– Jeff Lawson

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