• How Debt Around the World Affects You

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    You make think that you are alone in your struggle to get out of debt. The fact of the matter is that you are not. People all over the world, including many in countries you may not expect, have major debt problems. Unfortunately, being in debt is a global issue that many of us share. It is problem for individuals, families and countries. The root problems that cause people to go into debt seem to be universal as well. When you look across the planet and see how so many people are dealing with the same kinds of debt issues you are, you can see that managing debt is not an easy task. When you look at things globally, it helps give you a better perspective for handling your own difficulties.

    Household Debt

    If you take a hard look at household debt, which includes mortgages, installment loans and other consumer debts as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), the citizens of the United States are not the world leaders of personal debt. According to Time Magazine, the average household debt in the U.S. is 87%. While that seems fairly high, it is not nearly as outrageous as Australia’s 105% household debt. Yet, ironically enough, Australia’s government debt is only 21% compared to the United States’ 80%. Other countries with a big household debt ratio were the United Kingdom at 98% and Canada at 91%. Their total government debt percentages are 81% and 69% respectively. While the percentages of household debt compared to GDP are lower than personal household debt-to-income numbers, they give a good idea of how deep the country’s citizens are in debt as a whole.

    The Australian Example

    One would think that when the government is buried in debt, its people are deeply in debt as well. Australia is a perfect example of why that is not true. The country has very conservative fiscal policies when it comes to government spending and, publicly at least, has avoided the debt plague that many other developed nations are currently facing. Of the 10 countries Time Magazine examined, Australia had the lowest amount of government debt, but the highest amount of personal debt. The government may be restraining its expenditures, but the citizens of Australia are not cutting their spending back. In fact, they seem to be bucking the government’s trend by taking bigger financial risks. Obviously, consumer behavior has a lot more to do with personal debt than government spending and borrowing.

    Fast Growing Economies

    Economists often cite India and China as two of the fastest growing economies in the world. Even though both have lower average incomes than the developed countries mentioned earlier, both also have lower household debt to GDP ratio. On the surface, you may think that they have less debt because they have less income. That is not true when you are comparing percentages. When you examine what they earn compared to how deeply they go into debt, it is still a lower proportion compared to countries where the citizens have higher income levels. In other words, they are not just spending less; they are not borrowing money for what they do spend. They are using sites like debtconsolidation.com to effectively eliminate debt and then they are not creating new debt. Their “cash and carry” lifestyle keeps them out of debt. Restricting yourself to purchasing only what you can pay cash for is an effective debt-killer.

    The Case of Norway

    Because of their fantastic social program and low poverty levels, many magazines have named Norway as one of the best places to live in the world. This may or may not be true, but the citizens of the country are not doing well managing their debt. Thanks to a massive housing boom over the last few years, people are taking on far more debt. If you look back to 2007 – 2008 when the housing market bubble burst and sent the United States economy into a tailspin, most people owed 130% of their income in debt. In late 2012, that number was 210% in Norway with no signs of dropping. Granted, if interest rates remain low and the bubble does not burst, then that figure might be manageable for the average citizen. However, if things change then many Norwegians may regret their decision to buy a home before they were out of debt just as many people in the United States did a few years back.

    Government Stimulus Packages

    Despite being the world’s second largest developed country, Japan has face economic problems of their own in recent years. In response to their own flagging economy, Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, is proposing stimulus packages similar to those U.S. President Barack Obama used to stimulate the economy the United States. The problem is that government stimulus packages do not always encourage wise consumer spending. For example, many people rushed out to buy homes when the U.S. gave new homebuyers a large tax credit. While that did help the housing market, it was not necessarily the best personal finance choice for consumers who rushed to take advantage of the credit without thinking about how it would escalate their bills and add to their debt. Many economists feel that stimulus programs encourage consumers to over-spend and get further into debt.

    Every country has their own economic problems in both the public and private sectors. The best thing you can do is to try to learn from their success and failures. Globalization is not just a media buzzword; it is a fact of life. Even if you do not directly notice the effects of the global economy on your own finances, you can be certain they are there. The countries that are best at dealing with debt are not necessarily the richest countries and even among the most economically advanced countries of the world, consumer debt levels vary according to personal decisions. There is no one “perfect” country that sets the right standard for accruing debt. It is up to you, as a consumer, to make the best decisions you can based on all the available information.

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