WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Credit card debt among older U.S. adults is primarily used as a safety net, not a lack of personal financial responsibility, a survey indicates.
AARP's Public Policy Institute and Demos conducted a survey of U.S. middle-class adults age 50 and older found older households carried an average credit card balance of $8,278 in 2012.
The report also showed older households carried an average credit card balance of $8,278 last year. For those age 50 and under, credit card debt averaged $6,258.
Other key findings for middle-income households that carried credit card debt for three months or more:
-- A third of older households used credit cards to pay for basic living expenses such as rent, mortgage payments, groceries, or utilities.
-- Half of U.S. adults age 50 and older carried medical expenses on their credit cards. Prescription drugs and dental expenses were the main contributors.
-- A quarter of older households said loss of a job contributed to their credit card debt in the last three years.
-- Nearly 18 percent older Americans nearing retirement said they dipped into retirement funds to pay down credit card debt.
-- Older Americans were twice as likely as those age 50 and under to take on credit card debt to assist other family members, 23 percent vs. 11 percent.
The survey by GfK Knowledge Networks from February to March of last year involved 997 middle-income households that had carried credit card debt for three months or more.