Wichita — A federal bankruptcy judge is trying to set up a local program to educate people, particularly young people, about the dangers of credit cards.
Every day, Bob Nugent, the chief U.S. bankruptcy judge for Kansas, deals with cases involving people who can't pay their credit card bills.
"I could pull five files at random and you would see people with two, three, four and five credit cards, each with balances of $2,000, $3,000, $5,000 or $6,000," Nugent said.
Nugent hopes to establish a local version of CARE, for Credit Abuse Resistance Education, which puts credit card abuse on a par with abusing alcohol and drugs. The program started with a bankruptcy judge in Buffalo, N.Y., and is in place in some other states. Similar programs are gaining momentum in Kansas City and Topeka.
Nugent already has spoken to groups of high school students and given a presentation to potential business majors at Wichita State University. CARE is for students as young as high school sophomores.
"Too many people in our society are financially illiterate," Nugent said. "Kids get these credit cards, and they don't know what to do with it. Well, they know what to do with it, but they don't understand that if you only pay the minimum payment every month, the result is crushing."
Nugent says young people typically have high interest rates and they can rack up high balances if they regularly use credit cards without paying them off each month.
"If you swipe it for $150 on a trip to the mall, and you do that 10 times, that's $1,500," Nugent said. "Then you get the bill and you owe a minimum payment of $20. But your interest rate is 20 percent. The interest alone is $25 a month. If you make the minimum payment, you're not even touching the principal."