WASHINGTON (9/10/14)--One in five people can't pay all their bills and make ends meet without access to a credit card, the National Foundation of Credit Counseling (NFCC) found in a recent online poll.
In order to live only on cash, 22% of respondents said they would have to make significant lifestyle changes.
"Credit should be used as a convenience, not to supplement income," said Gail Cunningham, NFCC spokesperson. "It is a warning sign if a person is not able to manage his or her daily lifestyle without the use of credit cards, as this is a dangerous habit that could lead to serious financial distress."
In 2013, the average consumer who sought financial counseling from the NFCC had between five and six credit cards and carried a total unsecured debt equal to half his or her annual household income.
The only positive finding of the poll, conducted this year, was in the number of people who could maintain their same lifestyle without the use of credit cards, a total that increased by 4% since the last time the poll was administered in 2012 (to 27% from 23%).
The NFCC offers the following red flags to help consumers identify when their debt has become unmanageable:
"No one ever intentionally digs a deep financial hole, but breaking one of the basic rules of personal finance--spending more than you make--is not likely to have a positive outcome," Cunningham said.