Young adults manage debt amid financial turmoil

BY BRIAN CAPRIOLA
News Editor

While current Federal Reserve assessments of the economy suggest hard times are over, substantial personal debt acquired during the Great Recession noticeably lingers. Yet evidence of a positive economic trend among young adults between the ages of 18 and 35 has emerged according to a recent Pew Research Center study, which showed the demographic shed substantially more debt during and after the recession than older adults.

“I have been completely debt free for about two weeks now,” said 20-year-old County College of Morris student Kyle Raymond. “Between food and travel, my credit card bills went as high as $1,500, which was scary.”

Credit card balances have historically been the main source of debt attributed to young adults, as roughly 50 percent of young adults carried credit debt of more than $1,300 in 2001, according to the study. The median amount owed among young adults with balances has fallen over the decade from $2,500 in 2001 to $2,100 in 2007 and further diminished to $1,700 in 2010.

Shifts in the debt profile of younger adults can be linked to social patterns of the demographic’s asset ownership, as the Pew report analyzed. The decision of younger adults opting to live at home with parents rather than form households of their own has resulted in a less extreme and more manageable debt accumulation, as the study suggests.

“I’ve never been in any type of debt,” said Allison Economou, a 19-year-old CCM student. “Fortunately my school has been paid off by family, and I don’t pay rent living at home. So really all I have to worry about is paying for gas, food and haircuts.”

Life is perhaps easier among the younger population, as home mortgages and car payments are not an issue. However, some of the older CCM students offer a much different outlook on budget managing and the difficulties presented throughout the course of adulthood.

“Everything costs more now and it’s harder to save,” said Kathleen Kohaut, a 50-year-old CCM student from Mount Olive, N.J. “My husband works 6 to 7 days a week, and I’m paying out of pocket to attend CCM part-time so I can also work to lower our credit debt.”

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