U.S. Families Now Carrying About As Much Debt As Before The Recession

We’ve been toting quite a heavy load, economically speaking but it appears that for the average U.S. family, the debt burden has been lightened to where it was before the recession. That means that all of the unwieldy home mortgage debt, credit card debt and other debt loads have been trimmed down, making us more aerodynamic as we try to speed toward economic recovery.

Moody’s Analytics calculates that besides for student debt, most other consumer liabilities are now about equal to where we were in 2006 or earlier, reports the Los Angeles Times. Unfortunately, student loan debt has skyrocketed as many who couldn’t find work returned to school and took out private and federal loans to pay for it.

From the LAT:

American households were carrying an average credit card balance of $4,940 in the second quarter — down 24% from a peak of $6,500 in the second half of 2008, according to Moody’s. The number of credit cards in circulation has dropped to about 470 million from nearly 600 million in 2008.n’t yet shaken off their bunker mentality.

While households are paying less than 16% of after-tax income toward debt payments, the smallest portion since 1984, we’re still a bit cautious about splashing out our bucks because of the ordeal we’ve gone through already.

“It’s sort of a new reality that you have,” one expert tells the LAT. “We’re going to try to live within our means because living beyond it didn’t work out.”

But even if there won’t be a massive spending boost, just the fact that we’ve shed so much debt is seen as a good sign for the economy. It could mean some consumers get a little more loose with their wallets and take risks they might not have five years ago.

Once the holiday season really kicks into high gear, that will be the true test of whether or not we’re feeling confident about the economy.

U.S. families’ debt loads decline to pre-recession levels [Los Angeles Times]