Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The U.S, Debt & Households

In the media, when trying to practice "The Sky Is Falling" journalism (which is often), you'll see it said that the U.S. should act like a household. They shouldn't be in debt. They should balance their budget. They can't spend more than they take in. If the U.S. doesn't heed these warnings, Armageddon isn't far away.

Inspirational fear mongering aside, most U.S households don't to any of these prescriptions.

67% of U.S. homeowners have a mortgage. The median value for a home in the U.S. is $171,000. Per capita income is $26,000. So, let's assume the typical household with two adults is earning $52,000 per year. With a mortgage on eighty percent of the median home value, this is indebtedness of 2.6 times annual household earnings. And, this is just the house. Most households also have car, credit card, and medical debt.

The United States has a $15 trillion dollar economy. U.S debt is also estimated at $15 trillion. As a whole, the country is breaking even. Now a surplus would be nice, but compared to the typical U.S. household (in debt at least 2.6 times more than they earn, on average), breaking even seems pretty nice.

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