By Laura Woods
Now that the new year has begun, it’s time to review some of the defining money moments of 2015. It was a big year in personal finance, and some of these events could have an impact on 2016. Read on to find out more about the year that was.
THE AVERAGE CREDIT SCORE WAS HIGHER THAN EVER
One of the most encouraging money facts of 2015 was that consumers appeared to have gotten increasingly better at managing their debt. The national average FICO score hit 695, which was a record high, according to FICO. More people had a credit score of 800 or higher in April 2015 than in October 2005, 19.9 percent versus 16.9 percent, and fewer had a score below 550, 12.5 percent versus 14.6 percent.
Some of the decline in scores under 550 might be due to those with the lowest scores steering clear of credit altogether, but experts said it was still encouraging to see that people using credit were going about it more responsibly than in the past.
MANY SENIORS HAVE NO RETIREMENT SAVINGS
A May 2015 Government Accountability Office report revealed that 29 percent of households with people age 55 or older have no retirement savings or pension plan at all. The report found that even many seniors who do have money in their retirement account haven’t saved nearly enough.
The agency’s findings revealed the median amount in the retirement accounts of people age 55 to 64 is $104,000, and $148,000 for those in the 65-to-74 age group. These nest eggs amount to an inflation-protected monthly income of $310 and $649 respectively, according to the GAO. The agency also found that the majority of the income for approximately half of households age 65 and older is coming from Social Security benefits.
GAS PRICES DROPPED TO LOW LEVELS
On Dec. 21, 2015, the national average gas price dropped to less than $2 for the first time since March 2009, according to the Los Angeles Times. In comparison, the national average gas price was $2.40 for the week of Dec. 22, 2014, and $3.27 for week of Dec. 23, 2013.
According to a report from AAA, more than 100 million people were expected to travel during the holiday season, the largest number in years. Nearly one in three Americans were expected to travel at least 50 miles between Christmas Eve and Jan. 3, due to the lowest New Year’s gas prices in seven years, higher incomes and improvements in the job market.
THE AVERAGE NEW CAR LOAN HIT 67 MONTHS
Consumers purchased brand new cars at near record-high levels in 2015, and a new financing trend was at least part of the reason they were able to afford this luxury. The length of the average new car loan reached an all-time high of 67 months in 2015, according to credit reporting agency Experian.
The percentage of auto loans with terms of 73 to 84 months also reached a new high of 29.5 percent during the first quarter of 2015, which is a notable increase from 24.9 percent the previous year.
Loans for used vehicles with terms of 73 to 84 months also topped the charts at 16 percent during the first quarter of 2015, marking an increase from 12.94 percent in 2014, which was previously the highest on record. The average amount financed for a new vehicle also reached peak levels at $28,711, along with the average monthly payment of $485.
AMERICANS SPENT AN ESTIMATED $60 BILLION ON PETS
Pets have become a bigger part of the family than ever, and owners spared no expense for their beloved companions. Consumers were expected to spend an estimated $60.59 billion on pets in 2015, according to the American Pet Products Association, a 25 percent increase from five years ago.
Dogs are the most common pet found in U.S. households, with basic annual expenses expected to reach approximately $1,641 in 2015, according to the APPA. Of course, no extravagance is too great for many pet parents, as things like high-tech pet activity trackers, luxury suites at kennels and even gourmet pet food have become mainstream, according to NBC News.
GOBankingRates.com is a leading portal for personal finance news and features, offering visitors the latest information on everything from interest rates to strategies on saving money, managing a budget and getting out of debt.