MORE THAN JUST MORTGAGE PROBLEMS
And recent data suggest the debt burden on households is growing heavier, despite low interest rates. The "debt service ratio," the Federal Reserve's estimate of the ratio of debt payments to after-tax income, hit 13.4% in the first quarter of this year, an all-time high since the Fed began tracking it in 1980. The financial obligations ratio, which adds automobile lease and rent payments, homeowners insurance and property-tax payments to the debt service ratio, was 18.45% last quarter, near the record high of 18.84% in late 2002.phone International Phone Cards
Overall, U.S. consumers now owe roughly $11 trillion, nearly double what they owed a decade ago. The vast majority of that debt growth came from people taking out big mortgages and tapping their escalating home equity. Total household debt grew 11.2% in 2004, the largest year-to-year increase since 1986.