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I never quite trusted the numbers for consumer debt to savings in the US ... in 2005-7 people were investing in the stock market, mutual funds, money market accounts, etc with more of their savings. This prevented the numbers as being recorded as savings. I suppose with the market today that makes sense, but I just wonder what corners they cut on getting those numbers. Keep in mind the news media in general is prone to sensationalism - they like all problems to seem much worse than they are so that people will be interested in reading about them. That being said, of any estimates to consumer debt to savings in the US it is natural for a news source to take the assumptions and make the estimates with the worst possible outlook.
I saw an article last week in the Economist about the US consumer debt problem and I was thinking the same thing ... can we really trust those numbers?
Other things we know the numbers don't catch - retirement plans (IRA's, 401k's, etc) ...

I would be interested to see what the debt level comes from as well - I'll bet you it includes all mortgages which means that the "consumer debt" problem is really just showing another look at the subprime debacle. When you see Eisner's article talking about his housekeeper owning 5 homes and not being able to make payments once appreciation stopped, that tells you where a lot of this "debt" is coming from.
I clearly would not count that as 'consumer debt' in making decisions because
(1) Much of that debt is foreclosed, written down, and will never be paid
(2) The cause was rampant speculation made possible by passing the risk onto someone else - there was no original plan to make payments, just a payoff by reselling at a higher value.

These numbers can really cloud insight into realistic numbers for indebtedness including consumer credit cards and real mortgages that can and will be paid.

-John T
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