New Study: Millennials Fear Credit Card Debt More Than Death

young man checking credit card information on phone
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Some people can’t get out of bed in the morning because of a fear of dying.

Some won’t travel because of a fear of flying.

Some won’t move into that swanky apartment because of a fear of heights.

But for many millennials, apparently, one fear trumps them all. In our daily lives, we are more afraid of credit card debt than dying, the threat of war and climate change, according to a new Credible survey.

Credible, a company that helps people pay off debt by refinancing student loans, credit card debt and more, wanted to assess the extent of the burden credit card debt puts on our lives. It surveyed 500 adults ages 18 to 34 carrying credit card debt.

Given these options, here’s how many respondents said each was the scariest in their daily lives:

  • Credit card debt: 33%
  • Dying: 20%
  • Threat of war: 17%
  • Not being able to retire: 11%
  • Climate change: 6%
  • None of the above: 12%

First off, kudos to that fearless 12%. Jealous.

Second, I’m surprised more of us aren’t worried about retirement, considering the average family has nowhere near enough money saved to retire on time.

Third, I’m a little troubled by our apparent confidence. Those participation trophies everyone thinks we received as kids must have gone to our heads, because we really believe we can achieve some tough stuff.

The average credit card balance among the survey’s respondents was $5,290. Nearly one in five people said they need to “rely on their credit card(s) to supplement their monthly income.”

Yet 80% of respondents were “at least somewhat confident they will be able to pay off their debt in the next year,” and an overwhelming majority said they’ll do that by changing their spending habits.

Here’s How to Pay Down Credit Card Debt

We’ve talked about a lot of ways to pay off credit card debt.

First things first: You need to know how much you owe. Sometimes folks can be intimidated by credit reports because, you know, personal finance. However, credit reports are easy to follow, especially when you use a service like Credit Sesame.

The service is free, and it’ll even walk you through the report, letting you know what you can do to bump up your credit score.

If you have any trouble, we’ve got a guide to break it down a little more.

The ideal situation (aside from not accumulating it in the first place) is to crush your debt one high-interest account at a time. If you need immediate gratification, you could also try paying off the easiest balances first.

The hardest route is probably changing your spending habits. We always recommend looking at your budget first when money’s tight, but what do you do when you can’t stretch it anymore?

If you’re in debt because you rely on credit cards to supplement monthly income, you’re probably already in that situation. Hoping to find some magical place to shave your spending probably isn’t going to do the trick.

You might want to look into ways to make extra money. Here’s how you can increase your income, even if you already have a full-time job. Try not to increase your spending, and put that extra money toward debt repayment.

Once you’ve cut your spending and stretched your budget as much as you can, think about refinancing your debt.

Financial sites like Credible can help you find a lender for refinancing your student loan or credit card debt.

That means you’ll combine all your balances into one monthly payment, maybe even with a lower interest rate. This could help you pay off debt faster, and having just one payment will make it easier to manage — and could mean you’ll owe less each month.

That should ease some of that underlying fear you deal with daily.

How to Deal With Your Fear of Dying, War and Climate Change

OK, yeah, I don’t have an answer for these. Except maybe think about how you vote. And to ease your fears about dying, at least know you won’t ever have to think about your debt again.

Dana Sitar ([email protected]) is a senior writer/newsletter editor at The Penny Hoarder. Say hi and tell her a good joke on Twitter @danasitar.