Consumers Keep Debt at Bay

July 14, 2010

Three-quarters (75%) of Americans say their debt has not increased during the past six months and more than a third (38%) say their debt has decreased, according to the latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker.

Debt Reduction Trumps Saving
More Americans say they have been focused on paying down debt (46%) than saving (29%) this year, and 57% of consumers with debt have been moving forward with a specific plan to reduce or stabilize their debt.

Broken down into subcategories, the following percentages of consumers say they have decreased their debt during the last six months:

  • The majority of affluents (52%).
  • Almost half (46%) of young professionals.
  • More than a third (38%) of the general population.

Warm Weather Spurs Spontaneous Spending
While consumers plan to remain focused on reducing their debt, they also expect rising temperatures to spur some additional spending. Forty-three percent of young professionals and more than one-quarter of the general population (26%) and affluents (25%) agree that summer weather encourages more spontaneous spending. The top areas consumers expect to spend more on include summer outings (63%), dining out (53%) and summer apparel/accessories (44%).

Young professionals will be especially apt to spend more on happy hours with friends (44%, compared to 32% of general population) and on sporting events (39%, compared to 25% of the general population).

Longer Term Outlook: Consumers Spending on Both Wants and Needs
Sixty-four percent of Americans say they expect to spend more (16%) or the same (49%) during the next six months compared to the past six months. Of the 16 percent of consumers who plan to spend more in the next six months compared to the past six months, they plan to do so across a variety of “need-to-have” and “want-to-have” categories, including:


Those who expect to spend less (34%) in the next six months compared to the past six say they will do so primarily to save money (50%), maintain a budget (44%), and reduce debt (33%) rather than as a result of reduced income (29%) or anxiety about a potential job loss (8%).

Americans Make Vacation Plans
Summer travel is a priority for the majority of Americans despite the economic downturn, according to the previously released May 2010 American Express Spending & Saving Tracker. More than half (51%) of the general US population is planning a vacation this summer. Affluents (73%) and young professionals (83%) are even more likely to take a vacation.

Those surveyed plan to spend an average of $1,000 per person on summer travel, indicating that the average family of four expects to spend about $4,000 on their summer vacation. That figure jumps to around $4,800 among young professionals and nearly $6,400 among affluents.

About the Data: The research sample of 2,004 adults included the general US population, as well as two subgroups – the affluent (household income of more than $100,000) and young professionals (younger than 30, college-educated, household income of $50,000 or more). Interviewing was conducted by Echo Research between June 19 and 22, 2010.

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