Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Boomers in Debt

An article in USA Today this morning talks about Baby Boomers saddled with debt, but it is another example of "fun with numbers," that is, using the numbers to prove whatever point they're trying to make. (In this particular case, it is a very long lead-in to what people with large debt should do to get out from under.)

The chart they present says that 80% of the 66 million Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, have debt and the median for all is approximately $70,000. The text of the article, however, states that "one-third have no debt; the middle third have $37,500 in overall debt; and the top third have $200,000 in debt."

Okay, so let's flip this on its head: Sixty-six percent of the Boomers have less than $19,000 in debt. Not an insignificant amount, but certainly not an indication of a generation drowning in red ink.

And let's take some of the rest of the chart apart:
Forty-seven percent of the Boomers have mortgages with a median debt of $90,000. Some portion of the third of the generation with $37,500 in debt must have mortgages. Unless your house is under water -- worth less than what you owe -- you could sell it and pay off the balance due. Debt erased.
Thirty-five percent have car loans with a median of $14,000. I bought a new car in 2013 and financed part of it  at 0% because the dealer knocked a chunk off the price if I did. So I am one of many who had an auto loan and I am sure I wasn't alone in doing this. Real debt or artificially created?

The article then goes on with the usual advice for the 33% of Boomers who are saddled with the large amount of debt., including "increase your income" and "pay off high-interest debt first."

Yes, I'm sure those would be a good start, but let's go right to the core: "Spend less than you earn!" If you had practiced this all along, you would probably be where the other 66% of the Boomers are.

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