Georgia has the third highest credit card debt burden in the nation according to a new report from CreditCards.com.
In Georgia, the average credit card balance is $5,952.89. Georgians who pay the minimum could find it takes more than a decade to pay off their debt. Unfortunately, low incomes are holding many Georgians back from putting more towards their credit debt.
The median income in Georgia is $30,382. Paying 15 percent of monthly income or $379 would pay off the average debt in 18 months with about $716 going toward interest. Experts advise paying at least 15 percent of monthly income to service debt, but for those struggling with mid to low incomes, that may not be an option.
“It’s very hard to get out of debt if you’re already stretching every dollar to pay for food, housing and other essentials,” said Matt Schulz, CreditCards.com’s senior industry analyst in the study.
Georgia isn’t the only state suffering. Three other Sun Belt states landed among the top five states with the highest credit card debt burden including Florida, Texas and New Mexico. The state with the highest debt burden is Alaska.
The study looked at the average credit card debt and the median income in each state. States with highest debt burden tended to have lower incomes rather than high debts.
In Georgia, the long decline in the textile industry has helped create low employment and under-employment forcing many residents to turn to credit to fill the gaps.
“While people are in the process of looking for other jobs — or many people settling for whatever job they can get — they already have a credit card, so they’re utilizing their credit,” said Mary Riley, director of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of West Georgia/East Alabama.
There isn’t much you can do if you live in one of the Sun Belt states with a high debt burden other than move but if you work in a layoff-prone industry (which is just about every industry these days), experts advise making an effort to build up your emergency savings when your income is solid.