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Even the rich are hit by debt
Credit-card debt is becoming even more prominent in the struggling state of the economy. The average amount per consumer rose to $6,900 in the last year, a 21 percent increase, according to Experian, a global information services company. The average number of past-due accounts also increased to exceed more than one per consumer.
And it's not just those with low salaries who are susceptible.
One common misconception is that credit card debt doesn't affect upper-income households, said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com
"It's not a function of household income, it's a function of household spending," he said. "People of all walks of life have been either guilty of overspending or the victim of some misfortune such as a job loss, an illness or a divorce."
Chen's financial trouble began when he bought a nice house, new cars and joined several country clubs before he finished paying off his student loans, he said.
"When you start working and you're in an environment when everyone is living the high life, you get caught up in that spending," he said. "People assume if you have a high paying job ... they don't understand why you won't go to the new, fancy French restaurant that just opened up."
By changing his everyday spending habits - moving closer to work, using public transportation and drastically cutting down on eating out - Chen got himself out of debt in about three and a half years.
Ironically, he found his debt easier to manage once he took on a lower paying job.
"In our culture, frugality is almost a dirty word," he said. "In a way, it's actually harder for people with good-paying jobs to live frugally."
Chen started a frugal living blog, WiseBread.com, to help those struggling with similar issues.
Of approximately 7,000 readers who responded to the site's demographics survey, 77 percent answered "yes" to having a college degree or higher, and 41 percent declared an annual income of $75,000 or higher. Twenty-three percent of the respondents said their annual salary exceeds $100,000.
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