This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
TheStreet Open House

Why Are You Keeping Your Debt A Secret?





Previous generations were ashamed of debt. Not only was it relatively rare, but it was also widely regarded as a moral issue. How different things are today! In the first quarter of 2011, U.S. households owed $11.5 trillion in consumer debt, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. True much of that was secured on real estate, but if you strip out mortgages and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), you're still left with $2.29 trillion. Divide that by the country's population of 312 million, and you find that every man, woman and child in America owes on average $7,340.

Of course, many owe nothing (babies, children, rich folk, those who are brilliant money managers), but that just means that many others owe more. And some owe much, much more.

Average credit card debt scary

In March 2012, Richard Barrington wrote a fascinating analysis of credit card debt ( Average credit card debt: It's bigger than you think) for IndexCreditCards.com. Using Federal Reserve data, he showed that the 46.1 percent of U.S. households that have credit card debt owe, on average, $15,166 on their plastic.

Both those figures are surprising. The sum is scary, but the fact that it's shared by 46.1 percent of households is significant. Virtually one in two of your friends, relations and colleagues is likely to have credit card debt. So why should you be scared to talk about yours?

Talking about debt is difficult

It's those who have the biggest problems who are often the least likely to talk about them. Yet they're the very ones who need the most support. They're also the ones who are least likely to be able to keep their issues a secret in the long term.

Some debt collectors try (usually illegally) to leverage payments from the desperate by "mistakenly" letting the debtors' family, colleagues or neighbors know what's going on. Once in court, a debt case becomes a matter of public record. And a foreclosure is eventually going to be obvious to all.

1 of 2

Select the service that is right for you!

COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!
DOW 17,172.68 -107.06 -0.62%
S&P 500 1,994.29 -16.11 -0.80%
NASDAQ 4,527.6890 -52.10 -1.14%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from Bankrate.com

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs