Debt Has Spread Like A Virus

I started looking at the topic of America’s growing debt before the coronavirus pandemic spread. Across all age groups, debt has been accelerating rapidly for the last two decades, and I’m sure it has gotten much worse now.

This chart, from a CNBC article, shows the magnitude of the debt problem, with perhaps the greatest growth happening among older Americans …

As the chart shows, all age groups are up, but debt among older Americans has grown 5-fold since the beginning of the century. Strangely, people that are now over 70 (many of whom grew up in the Great Depression and WWII) carry even more debt than people just starting out, age 18-29.

When will Americans learn that DEBT is a 4 letter word? As the pandemic sweeps the country, the evening news is full of sad stories about people who have not saved enough to even pay their most basic needs. Young people, parents with children, and older Americans seem to have saved so little, they are critically anxious for the basic $1,200 relief check from the Federal Government.

It’s not that we didn’t have enough to put money aside for a rainy day. We have enjoyed the highest standard of living in human history and up until a month ago, one of the best economies in our lifetime. Still, it seems that few had the common sense to prepare for something to go wrong.

My greatest wish for this country is that once we eradicate this devastating virus, we get hyper-focused on getting our financial lives in order (individually & as a nation) and become much better prepared for the next unexpected, but inevitable financial calamity.

Image Credit: Pixabay

8 thoughts on “Debt Has Spread Like A Virus

  1. My wife and I were (sadly) talking about this over the weekend. I hope the world realizes the crushing weight of debt with this “situation” and begins to make amends toward becoming debt free when this is over. I fear it may simply revert to the “same old” for most…once it’s over. We have been debt free for over 12 yrs, and early retired three years ago. I’ve raised my kids to understand the crushing weight of debt, and both seem to have a good start, both now in their late twenties. The chart above didn’t surprise me, other than the oldest category. Most people, that I know, can’t even comprehend being totally debt free. (They are the same ones living way beyond their means, and now scrambling for the free $1200 government checks…soon on the way!) It is so sad, given the incredible economic opportunity we all had at our finger tips for the past 10 years. I do hope people change…for the sake of our nation…

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    1. Great comments. Watching everything fall apart so quickly makes the economy seem like such a house of cards, doesn’t it? Not just people’s individual finances, but also the business supply chain needed to get a roll of toilet paper to the store (or a mask to a nurse). It’s not affecting us directly, but the whole thing is frightening.

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  2. In my job I am always amazed by the number of retirement age people who are refinancing to a 30 year mortgage. They are so happy to get a lower rate but seemingly unfazed by the fact they are still paying a mortgage at that stage of their life. I don’t judge them but it just doesn’t seem like an ideal situation.

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  3. Our household avoids debt as if it were as pernicious as Covid-19. I hope our nation comes to its senses, heeding the words of George Washington about debt in his farewell address: “avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt … by shunning occasions of expense … not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.” Our first president also made clear where prime responsibility resides: “The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it is necessary that public opinion should co-operate.” Our elected representatives utterly failed for generations in this duty; we the people have failed in electing representatives to do so.

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    1. Yes – great wisdom from Washington. He would make a great President, too bad he’s not running in 2020. Of course, he would probably be appalled by our current party system / State of the Union and might feel the need to lead another Revolution! 🙂

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