CONSUMER DEBT

CONSUMER DEBT

Consumer debt among American families was recently
reported to total $12.73 trillion. To put this into
perspective, the US government debt is just shy of $20
trillion. The outrageous amount currently owned by
consumers is higher now than the peak reached in 2008
before the economic collapse. Although consumers are
handling this level of debt better today than they did in
2008, it still represents a tremendous risk to individuals
and our economy as a whole.
Interestingly enough, mortgage debt is now a smaller
percentage of total debt than it was back in 2008. Of
course, this is primarily due to tighter lending restrictions.
This means that Americans are holding more debt in
riskier loans such as credit cards, bank loans and car
loans for example. Much of this debt is subject to
fluctuating interest rates, which is now something we
need to consider as the Fed pushes short term rates
higher.
I believe that consumer debt is usually a habit. Unsecured
debt, such as credit cards, could be a sign of spending
more than the income flowing into the household. To
break this cycle, sometimes more extreme measures
must be deployed. If the goal is to get out of consumer
debt, it could be advantageous to use a mortgage or
home equity loan to help. With values rising to premarket
crash levels, most people have a decent amount
of equity in their homes. However, I strongly caution
against this without a plan to break the cycle that led to
the debt in the first place. Otherwise, the same situation
is likely to occur.