NEW YORK (MainStreet) Younger people are better at managing their credit than those in their 40s, according to a new report.
"Nobody wants young people to get into excessive credit card debt just like we don't want any age group to get into excessive credit card debt," said John Ulzheimer, CreditSesame.com contributor. "But to simply assume that one homogenous population that is younger than 21 is riskier than another without evidence to support such a theory is bad public policy."
A Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond study found that those between the ages of 40 and 44 are 12 percentage points more likely to go seriously delinquent than a 19-year-old.
"Irresponsible credit card management can lead to defaults, late fees, 29% interest rates, collections and lawsuits," Ulzheimer said. "These issues can bleed over into wealth building for retirement, the loss or inability to get a job, more expensive credit, and more expensive insurance."
But that may be merely a matter of circumstance.
"Millennials don't yet have the responsibilities of 40-somethings," said Peg Chromy Webb, a financial advisor with Wealth Enhancement Group in Minneapolis. "Many are waiting to get married and have kids. The increased responsibility at 40 years old brings added expenses."
Another theory is that the Millennials' reported greater responsibility around credit may merely be a function of their generation.
"These young people highly value achieving a game level, maintaining an eBay rating, contributing to a TripAdvisor score and tracking iTunes purchases lest they bankrupt themselves," said Joseph Grenny, coauthor of Crucial Conversations (McGraw Hill 2011). "Pocket cash is an anachronism today, so Millennials' primary experience with assets has been virtual. This has given them a leg up in managing credit card balances wisely."
Although those under 21 years old are substantially less likely to go 90 days past due or worse, it is illegal for an issuer to give a credit card to anyone under the age of 21 unless he has a job or a co-signer under the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009.
"The law is protecting a group that doesn't need it," Ulzheimer said. "The under 21 provision of the CARD Act was arbitrary and without basis. In fact, if the goal of the CARD Act was to protect groups from getting into trouble with credit cards then it would be more effective to make credit cards harder to obtain for those between 40 and 44 years old."
What may help young and older debtors be more responsible is an increase in personal finance education.
A National Financial Educators Council study found that 88% believe it is responsible lending to complete a financial education class to help students under 21 years old understand repayment terms before they commit to a student loan.
"Our education around finances has improved tremendously in our educational systems overall," Webb said. "It actually starts at a much earlier age within our schools to teach the advantages of being responsible."
--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet