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Give the young some credit

This week saw two interesting figures released related to debit and credit card use. The first relates to the growing trend of micro plastic payments as we move towards a cashless society; according to the UK Cards Association (the card issuers’ trade body) consumers used their debit cards for 10.8bn transactions in 2012, an increase of 6.1% on 2011. Card use is set to double over the next decade, driven by debit card use.

The second shines a light on the mindset of the millennial generation; the profile of credit card holders is ageing more rapidly than the population as a whole, “reflecting the greater risk aversion and stronger preference for debit cards with the younger generation”, according to the UK Cards Association. In 2012, 41% of credit card holders were aged 55 and over compared with 39% in 2007 and 34% in 2002. Our research into the Future of Britain highlights the mature outlook of younger generations who have seen the effects of their older counterparts living beyond their means. Whilst those aged 35-44 are the most likely to be struggling to pay off credit card debts (24% in this age group are struggling, vs 11% aged 16-24) it is 16-24s who are the most likely to have started to save more money (33%, a higher proportion than any other age band).

At the same time, whilst older consumers are the most likely to have lowered their aspirations, 16-24s are the group most likely to be more driven to make money, and they are the group with the most perspective; 21% of them believe the recession has been a good thing in the long term vs just 11% of 35-44 year-olds. It’s very easy to stereotype but the popular image of this generation is wide of the mark. They are resourceful, entrepreneurial and determined. Drug use, smoking and drinking levels are all at record lows, technology has been both an enabler and democratizing force for good, their heroes are more likely to be successful college drop outs like Mark Zuckerburg than the rebellious rock stars who paraded around Glastonbury and their approach to debt, as the figures suggest, is a refreshingly mature one. Further evidence of the shift from mindless to mindful consumerism.

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