How The Financial Crisis Changed America's Attitude Toward Debt

Like the Great Depression, the Great Recession has reshaped American household finances.

A whopping 67% in a survey by Absolute Strategy Research said the Financial Crisis had changed their attitude toward debt.

33% said they planned to reduce their total debt level over the next year, while 34% said they planned not to take on any new debt.

While the majority of respondents (87%) report feeling “more secure” in the workplace than they did a year ago, many are struggling with debt, underwater mortgages and the nagging feeling that no matter how much they sock away, they are not saving enough for retirement.

Americans still suck at saving, with 72% admitting they are saving too little. And while 51% managed to get the spend-less-than-you-earn thing down, these respondents are only “making ends meet,” and still 13% aren’t getting by, period. This might have to do with their access to credit, which notably declined in the height of the downturn.

ASR’s findings speak to Americans’ inability to move past the Crisis, and their growing reluctance to take on more risk. 

“Only 36% thought stocks had a role to play in saving for retirement,” said the survey. “Most depressing is that 46% thought that their children–when they reached their age–would have a lower standard of living.”

Of course debt remains a factor in a financial planning, with three out of four Americans citing some type of debt, and 45% complaining that debt is swallowing their income and hindering their retirement prospects. A lion’s share of the blame might go to housing, as 54% of respondents own a joint or individual mortgage, and 72% own a home.

Along with “higher inflation,” Americans have come to feel housing is worthless (minus 10%, down from 17% in June 2010), and the middle-class, who particularly feel the squeeze this year, are doing whatever they can to deleverage, or get out of, the market. The percentage of those who own a mortgage dropped 58% to 49% earlier this year; meanwhile 36% of homeowners report having some difficulty with their so-called investment, and 27% are underwater on their mortgage. 

See photos of the Great Recession >

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