In March, Americans reached a level of total consumer borrowing that approaches what it was just after the “Great Recession” began. In July 2008, our total consumer debt, including student, auto, and credit card loans, was $2.58 trillion; now it’s $2.54. The increase in borrowing in March was the largest one-month increase in the last decade. Is it a sign our economy is recovering?
Consumer Confidence and Credit
Borrowing is generally considered to be a sign of a stable economy, indicative of consumer’s confidence in their ability to pay off the loans they’ve accrued. Of course, that’s not always the case, and falling into debt is often easier than you think.
After piling on debt in the midst of the Great Recession, consumers were less inclined to borrow. As the economy has slowly improved and stabilized, that’s changing. Either the lesson of the past has sunk in and spending on credit is being taken seriously and handled maturely, or the past is already forgotten and irresponsible borrowing and lending could threaten our economy again.
Student Loans and Savings
While job creation has been steady in the last several months, a decline in job production in March and April may have led to the observed increase in student loans. In a difficult and competitive job market, returning to school or continuing education might be the most sensible option. But taking on student loans can be a burden, both now and in the future.
In March, U.S. households saved 3.8% of their post-tax income, down from 4.7% in January. The trend seems to be to borrow more and save less, dangerous for everyone, and especially for students taking out loans fresh off unemployment.
Time will tell whether we’ve learned from our mistakes or are letting history repeat itself. What do you think? State your mind in the comments section below.