consumer debt

Stop spending, people


I spend a lot of time listening to NPR. I'm not sure when the switch from preferring music to preferring NPR happened, but I'd guess it happened during the years of the hour long commute each way when I lived in L.A. Very few stations played enough good, new music that listening every day for two hours wouldn't cause violent suicides in every other slow moving vehicle on the freeways (which would, of course, slow the I-can-run-faster-than-these-cars-are-moving traffic to a sloth-can-run-faster pace, thereby causing even more suicides, vicious circle that).

Talk radio was clearly the best mass-suicide-prevention option available.

Sometimes I listen to the radio, sometimes I have it on for just background noise. Today's background noise caught my attention:

"Americans went further into debt last month, but at the slowest rate in four months."

Whenever I hear comparisons to economic conditions from a week, month or a year ago, I roll my eyes, especially for the first two. A month is not long enough for any meaningful extrapolation of data. Economic data comparisons to a month ago are blips.

Looking at the numbers closer, however, still makes the supposed good news actually bad. Great, the rate of debt increase has slowed, but, uh, hello, it still increased. Collectively, Americans owe more than they did a month ago. What ever happened to saving up? Or delayed gratification? Or living within one's means?

Apparently completely gone in the face of increased conspicuous consumption.

I blame big media.

So, what are the real numbers?

Consumer credit, which doesn't include mortgages but does include credit cards and vehicle loans, is at $2.34 trillion dollars. That's $2,344,000,000,000. Yes, 12 zeroes. Estimate 295 million people in the United States and you're looking at a debt of $7926 per person.

Family of four? Yeah, that's $30000 in debt.

Want to look at just credit cards? That's a mere $2843 per person.

That $8k in debt at normal credit card interest rates means a person will actually owe $9600 at the end of the year. Where's the brilliance in that math?

Other than student loans and a mortgage, possibly a car loan, I can think of no reason why a person should be in debt.

I suspect that $2.344 trillion is not student loan debt.

Stop spending, people.