Debt is driving everybody down, according to a new credit card survey from WalletHub, and that’s not a good sign for a culture that’s trying to emphasize financial wellness.

In fact, says the report, the rise in debt could prove to be the canary in the coal mine when it comes to a downward trend in financial wellness, since more than 18 percent of respondents said they believe they will miss at least one credit card due date in 2020. That works out to about 46 million Americans, says the report, and as we all know, one thing often leads to another.

In the case of a missed credit card payment—which on the surface may not appear to be such a terrible thing—a chain reaction can begin, starting with late fees of up to $29 for a first offence and $40 for another within six months.

That puts even more stress on an already strained budget, and that stress will be added to if cardholders who don’t already carry a balance between months will lose their grace period; that means they’ll immediately accrue interest on both new purchases and the unpaid balance.

They might also get socked with a high-penalty APR on new purchases, depending on the card issuer—which might also then apply that new APR to all balances after the cardholder is 60 days past due on payment.

Last but far from least, if that late payment (or any of them, for that matter) gets reported by the issuer to the credit bureaus after it’s 30 days late, that will weigh on their credit scores, likely letting them in for higher costs and fewer chances to borrow in the days ahead. That will make it even tougher to avoid further damage to their precarious grasp on financial wellness.

Men (24 percent), millennials (29 percent) and lower-income people (22 percent) are more likely to be anticipating a missed payment, compared with just 14 percent of women, 5 percent of boomers and 15 percent of higher-income folks. Interestingly, Democrats and Republicans are tied at 20 percent each.

When it comes to those high-income earners, those who do miss a payment are twice as likely to do so than low-income earners simply because they forgot to make it—and men are 10 percent more likely to forget a payment than women.

And not that they’re profligate, but men just aren’t as careful about late fees as women, with women 35 percent more likely to consider them than men when choosing a credit card.

Read the rest of Marlene Y. Satter ‘s article at BenefitsPro