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Here’s a headline you don’t see every day: “Americans Believe Tech Makes Their Lives Better But Society Worse, New Study Finds.”
Basically, we love our smartphones and on-demand entertainment, but we also believe it’s probably bad for you. That’s the conclusion of an in-depth-study from a firm called Verge Strategies.
As a CPA and financial counselor, I’m most interested in this nugget: “38 percent believe technology is making the gap between rich and poor wider, while only 22 percent believe technology is bridging the gap.”
Sign me up for that 22 percent. Technology might make the rich even richer, but it can also get the over-extended out of debt. How? I’ve been touting for years the various digital technology ways you can save money. The most direct include budgeting software like Tiller, but you can also save hundreds on prescription drugs with GoodRx and on a slew of items with FlexShopper.
This is just one of the studies I’ve perused lately, which I use as guideposts to chart the progress of Americans on the road to financial freedom. Sometimes, there’s a lot of speedy driving, but more often than not, there are potholes and roadblocks…
Good news: Quality over quantity
Every financial counselor has met coupon shoppers who buy items they don’t need because they saved 25 cents. We’ve also met shoppers who buy shoddy products because they can get a lot for a small price. Example: Paper towels that are so thin, they don’t absorb very much, so you need to use three times as many.
Thankfully, that seems to be changing. “Quality is becoming more important than price to most consumers, as 53 percent rate quality as the most important factor when making purchases compared to price,” says a study from a company called First Insight.
Why is this happening now? My guess: technology. You can now read online reviews on almost any product, and if the price isn’t worth the product, you can find out so much easier than you could even a decade ago.
Bad news: Auto loan rates keep going up
Debt.com has previously reported that a new vehicle today costs $6,500 more than it did five years ago. Now comes news that the interest on auto loans has hit a 9-year high.
“The annual percentage rate (APR) on new financed vehicles averaged 5.82 percent in June, compared to 4.96 percent in June 2017 and 4.10 percent in June 2013.,” reports Edmunds.
This means Americans are paying more for a new car or truck, then paying more for the loan. I’m sometimes mocked for writing, “Are car loans the next mortgage crisis?” I’m simply posing the question, and numbers like these make me dread the answer.
Good news: Getting down to business
LendingTree asked nearly 3,400 Americans if they wanted to run their own business. “Almost one-third (31.6 percent) have thought about starting their own business in the past year,” the survey revealed.
Even more surprising, “20 percent said they were willing to forgo an income to get their business off the ground.” I consider this good news, because the United States was built on small business and continues to succeed because of small business.
Bad news: Student loans and drug rehab
Sadly, we’re becoming accustomed to this number: $1.5 trillion. That’s how much student loan debt we have in this country. It’s affecting everyone, even those trying to kick a drug habit.
In a broad-based evaluation of the drug-rehabilitation industry, a company called WebPT described three big reasons for patients dropping out of their programs — and “mounting student debt” was among them.
This isn’t a surprise. If graduates can’t afford to buy homes because of their student loans, it’s not a stretch to imagine they can’t afford to recover from their addictions. While the report, didn’t cover this, I wonder: Do crushing student loans cause addiction?
I’ve been in this business long enough to see those mired in debt try to forget their financial straits by drinking and doing drugs. If there’s any good news, it’s that rehabbing your finances is easier — and much cheaper — than recovering from addiction.
For starters, you can call a certified credit counselor for a free debt analysis, and if any action is recommended (like a debt management program), you’ll save much more than you’ll spend. So the best news today is: A phone call can save you. Call Debt.com to learn more.
Originally published at www.debt.com on August 27, 2018.