Thursday, February 26, 2015

What Would Charles Barkley Say? ... A Much Needed Message for Our Overly Indebted Fellow Americans ... It's Time to Clean Up Our Act

"Just because everybody else does it is no reason for you to do it too" was some much needed and all too often unheeded advice my parents (and other well intentioned adults) gave me throughout childhood and my 'growing up' years, including early adulthood.

Like most young people, I didn't always (or even often) take it to heart at the time, but eventually came to understand and appreciate the wisdom and life lessons contained in that simple phrase.

And here's another simple admonition that applies equally -- better late than never -- and so it is.

I thought about all this while reading an article about famed hoopster and the outspoken ESPN sports commentator Charles Barkley. The lengthy article tells the lessons he learned during his 'growing up' years and why he regrets that he hasn't been successful in helping enough people learn those valuable life lessons. See Up From Leeds.

Americans struggle to keep up with new borrowings relates another important story about too many of our fellow Americans and their current struggles with indebtedness:

"Household debt--including mortgages, credit cards, auto loans and student loans--rose $117 billion between October and December to $11.8 trillion . . . .

The ramp-up in borrowing was broad-based: Mortgage balances--the bulk of U.S. household debt--edged up $39 billion to $8.2 trillion. Auto-loan balances grew $21 billion to $955 billion, and credit-card balances increased $20 billion to $700 billion. Student-loan debt--the fastest-growing category--rose $31 billion to $1.2 trillion.

Despite encouraging signals Americans are becoming more comfortable using credit again, there are warnings signs that some consumers are now struggling to stay current on two types of debt--auto loans and student loans--whose dramatic rises have worried economists lately....
And a windfall from lower gasoline prices has allowed more Americans to save and pay off debt.

All told, American households' overall borrowing tab of $11.8 trillion remains 7% below its 2008 peak of $12.7 trillion, even before adjusting for inflation.

Still, the . . . data fuel concerns that the recent boom in issuance of auto loans, especially to Americans with weaker credit histories, is resulting in more so-called subprime borrowers struggling to repay. . . . (and) education loans are hard to discharge in bankruptcy--making them more of a potential drag on a borrower's future consumer behavior."

Summing Up

With the price of gasoline down and interest rates low, highly indebted Americans have a great opportunity to begin to reduce onerous debt levels.

Let's hope that We the People take full advantage of that clear and present opportunity.

And that we thereafter don't go off the deep end again by taking on unnecessary and burdensome debt.

That's my take --- and my sincere hope as well.

Thanks. Bob.

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