Nearly a year into the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly half a million Americans, eliminated millions of jobs and derailed the nation’s economy, Americans are re-evaluating their personal finances. While people generally have more money in savings and less credit card debt, there are sharp demographic divisions that could emerge as fault lines in a post-pandemic economy dependent on robust consumer spending.

A new survey of more than 1,000 people from Bankrate found that just over half of respondents place a higher priority on growing their emergency savings than on paying down credit card debt, an increase of 7 percentage points from last year. About one-third of respondents said paying down debt was their top priority, a decrease of 6 percentage points.

The unwillingness — and inability — of Americans to spend on experiences and services led to a shift in household balance sheets. Provisional consumer credit data from the Federal Reserve published last week found that Americans shed an estimated $123 billion in revolving debt last year. In aggregate, the amount of outstanding revolving debt dipped below $1 trillion last May for the first time since September 2017, and has remained below that mark since.


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