The surprisingly okay state of consumer debt

According to a recent congressional report, credit card balances actually declined sharply, by $76 billion, in the second quarter of 2020. You might also assume that, with the guillotine of joblessness hanging precipitously in the balance, Americans might defer large purchases, like homes or cars. Again, you’d be wrong: By the fourth quarter of 2020, mortgage debt grew to $10 trillion (compared to a fourth-quarter 2019 statistic of $9.56 trillion), and auto loan debt reached $1.4 trillion.”

“During the worst part of Covid, people were pretty cautious. Debt did rise, but not all debt rose. For example, the US experienced the largest recorded quarterly decline in credit card balances (about $76 billion, see the Congressional Research Service study of May 6, 2021). For one thing, people stopped spending; they really just cut back on expenditures. That’s one of the reasons that businesses were so hard-hit: Aside from the lockdowns and all the rest of it, people weren’t buying stuff.   
 But I would say that what really saved it from being a total disaster was the three stimulus checks. That first stimulus check was spent almost entirely on expenses, and it appeared that was the period of highest unemployment. When the second stimulus check came out, people were more likely to spend that on debt; that may be one reason that we began to see a decline in credit card debt. And then by the time we got to the third stimulus check, some people were spending it, some people were buying down debt, but a surprising number saved it. The personal savings rate actually reached a high in April of 2020. Who would have believed it?”

“The Census Bureau began doing a survey that was very helpful during the pandemic called the Pulse survey, which comes out every week and asks people about their economic difficulties. In the survey that covered May 12 through 24, there were still 26 percent of respondents who said they were having trouble paying their household expenses. That’s a red flag. And 9 percent of adults were in households where they said that at least some time in the past week, there had not been enough to eat. So it appears to me that the people who have been in dire straits are not going to get out of those dire straits any time soon.” 

 https://www.vox.com/the-goods/22587374/consumer-debt-college-loans-credit-card-stimulus

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