Decrease in credit card debt doesn't mean people are learning to save

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Some good news from the Federal Reserve: Its most recent monthly report shows another huge decrease in consumer credit card debt.

Total consumer credit fell a seasonally adjusted $11.5 billion, at an annual rate of 5.6%, to $2.448 trillion in February. -Federal Reserve

That debt fell for the 17th straight month, but that doesn't necessarily mean consumers are learning spending lessons.

For almost 40 years, Alan Williams has been helping people with money problems; but it's in the past two or three years he's noticed a big change in financial attitudes.


"People are just running scared. They just don't know what's going to happen," he says.

Williams runs Money Mastery, in Woods Cross, and teaches a community financial class with the Davis School District.

Of course Williams thinks the national decrease in consumer credit debt is a good thing, but he's not convinced Americans have truly learned to save. He thinks spending fear and less available credit have done a lot more to shrink credit card debt.

"The fact that people have to be scared to make a change is kind of unhealthy for sure; but in terms of their money, we don't need to spend what we spend -- because we have to build for the future," Williams says.

Back in 2008, the Utah State Legislature made it a state law that high school students had to learn financial literacy.

One of the teachers at West Jordan High school says there is a big difference between teaching adults financial literacy and teaching students financial literacy. "You could talk to juniors and seniors that are taking this class right now, and they would say it's the biggest waste of time," Gaye Betenson says.

The students have to take the class to graduate. Betenson hopes that by doing so, students will actually learn a little about spending before going into massive debt.

"This is going to be their lifeline for the rest of their lives, and it's going to matter," she says.


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Alex Cabrero


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