American consumers are once again spending beyond their means. Just a few months ago there was a startling headline reporting that US consumers now had over $1 trillion in credit card debt outstanding. That seemed astonishing in itself but now looking at debt levels in other sectors we find that auto loans outstanding are also over $1 trillion. Keep in mind this is for an item that will lose value once it is taken off the lot. You also have student debt over $1.4 trillion which is amazing given many young Americans are working in jobs that really don’t require a college degree. The debt apocalypse is once again upon us and we better hope the economy keeps on running on fumes or we will be confronted with another solvency crisis shortly.
The debt numbers broken down
The figures are stunning to see:
Student debt outstanding: $1.44 trillion
Auto loans outstanding: $1.12 trillion
It is no surprise that we have so many Americans struggling under the weight of debt and then we wonder why many families are too broke to even afford an entry level home. Many young Americans are entering the workforce with what amounts to a mini-mortgage.
Here is the incredible growth in student debt and auto loans:
The problem of course is that inflation in college tuition continues to move up unabated. The government in collusion with big banks makes a racket out of this. Many students continue to go into debt and really have no idea how much it is going to cost them until they start paying their student loans six months after graduation. In many cases, some are working low wage jobs and have a tough time paying off the debt.
The auto loan market is troubling to look at because this is not a wealth building sector. Sure, we have gorgeous and beautiful cars to choose from but is that worth sacrificing your financial future? Many think so. Or many don’t realize if you took that $300, $400, or $500 car payment and invested it instead of having a rusty beat up car after 15 years you could have a nice nest egg.
And you don’t think people are having a tough time? You have 4 million people that are in default to their student loans:
But look at the other categories like deferment, forbearance, and loans in their grace period. A large chunk of student loans are not actively being paid. So once these enter into the repayment phase you can expect many will go kaput as well.
I know it is hard to see this as an issue right now with the stock market at a record high, real estate at a record high, and levels of debt at a record high. But this is the siren call of a bull market. Bad investments and financial decisions are being masked by a rising tide of exuberance. Yet we will find out who is financially swimming naked when the tide rolls out.