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New infographics reveal what Americans go into debt for
Life in debt, the American way.
- 85 percent of Americans currently owe money.
- We come to regret at least some of that debt.
- Each of us needs to be thoughtful about how we finance our lives.
Not accruing some kind of debt is difficult. Student loans are inevitable for many, and if you're the home-owning sort, there's probably a mortgage loan taking a chunk out of your month income. Maybe a car loan, too. Then there's credit cards, which experts say you should pay all the way down ASAP to avoid owing punishing interest: After all, that's how issuers make their money, with making the minimum payment the ultimate sucker's game — you never get to $0. Paying late is even more costly.
There are also different attitudes about debt itself. The current U.S. president has proudly declared himself "the king of debt." Others aren't so sure it's a sustainable way to live.
Comet Financial Intelligence was curious to know how Americans feel about their debts and conducted a survey of 1,007 people via Amazon's Mechanical Turk. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 82, with a mean of 32, and the male/female split was roughly equal. Debt Regret presents visualizations they created from their findings.
All infographics in this article are from Comet.
85 percent of us are currently in debt of some sort
If there's one thing Americans still have in common in this fractious time, it's debt. It's how most of us live. Credit cards, of course, power many of our lifestyles, and, on average, over 60 percent are in their debt — women at 70.0 percent and men 59.6 percent. Cars, homes, and student loans come next, followed by medical bills. After that, our phones.
How much $$ are we talking about?
Homes are far and away the most expensive things on our tabs. And though cars are dazzlingly expensive these days, they only come in at number three — student loans, a serious problem for people not born to bucks, have them beat.
For that unfeeling politician a few years back who said Americans wouldn't need government-supported healthcare if they bought cheaper phones, the survey says, "Nope." Not even close.
Paying on the “never, never”
That's a popular nickname for financing a purchase in the parts of the U.K., and it sums up their appeal: You may not have the money to buy something now, but eventually you will. (See: Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?)
As payments wear on ad infinitum, though, we sometimes wonder if paying that thing off over time was really the best idea.
Chief among them? Student loans. (We told you it was a problem.) And then those deadly credit cards, whose debt can add up to spectacular — that is, crushing — levels when you start using one card to pay another, lather, rinse, repeat. It's a sort of payment-plan-pyramid. Homeowners are pretty chill about their mortgages, though.
And we don't always have the scratch for these monthly bills when they come due. Nearly half of us, 41.2 percent, have been late paying a medical bill, and almost a quarter of us have missed a student loan payment.
So, older and wiser you: What would you finance today?
Of course, having the luxury to not finance something means you've got ample cash, and that doesn't describe a lot of us, especially with all we already owe. Now that your crazy youth is in your almost paid-off car's rear-view mirror, what would you consider worth the hassle now?
Well, big-ticket items. A home. Medical bills, which tend to be unavoidable if not inarguable. That car. And knowing how irresistible low APRs can be, some credit cards.
It's really sweet, and a sign of our growing appreciation for non-humans, that three quarters of us now consider a pet's medical bill worth borrowing for (see above). Engagement rings, those incredibly expensive baubles — the average one in 2016 was $6,163 — may no longer seem as worth impoverishing yourself and your loved one for.
As we said, and unfortunately, avoiding debt altogether is probably impossible for most Americans. The best approach is to try and be as knowledgeable and thoughtful about what you're doing as you can be before making a commitment you'll have to honor over an extended period of time.
Maybe you aspire to be a king of debt, too. But you certainly don't want to wind up a pauper of it.
- (and scary) statistics of student loan debt in America ›
- Student debt is keeping millennials single ›
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.
A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.
- The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
- The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
- Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.
COVID-19 and the brain<p>A growing body of research reveals alarming neurological complications among COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, for example, researchers from University College London published a <a href="https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/doi/10.1093/brain/awaa240/5868408" target="_blank">study</a> in the journal Brain that describes how some patients have suffered temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage, and other neurological problems concurrent with COVID-19.</p><p>Some patients suffered brain inflammation as a result of a rare disease called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which can cause numbness, seizures, and confusion. One patient in the study even hallucinated monkeys and lions in her home.</p>
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images<p>A separate study published in the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198407/" target="_blank">Journal of Clinical Neuroscience</a> notes that some COVID-19 patients have also suffered neurological complications like impaired consciousness and acute cerebrovascular disease. The study notes that past viruses like MERS and SARS also seemed to cause neurological problems.</p><p>A troubling finding among this growing body of research is that some patients seem to suffer neurological damage even when respiratory symptoms aren't obvious. Additionally, scientists aren't sure whether damage from the disease will be permanent.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause," Dr. Ross Paterson, joint first author of the University College London study, said in a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-07/ucl-iid070620.php" target="_blank">press release</a>. "Doctors needs to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes."</p><p>If you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 and want to enroll in the study, visit <a href="https://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study" target="_blank">cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study</a>.</p>
Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.