If you are over the age of 28, at least according to a recent study regarding debt, you likely see debt as the stressful reality it can be. In a recent CBS Money Watch post, a reporter remarks on how a researcher’s study into young consumers’ attitudes toward debt startles him.
The basic questions that the Ohio State University study inspires are these: Why in the world would young people be proud to owe debts? If they are truly proud of debt, then what does that mean for the U.S. population of consumers?
According to the study, young people between the ages of 18 and 27 were asked about their feelings about owing money in student loans and credit card bills. For many of us, that question would inspire the following types of answers:
- I feel paralyzed by my debts
- I feel like I can never get out of the hole
- I feel like I can never earn what I need to pay back
- I am so sick of owing money
Strangely, the answers researchers got from the young subjects of their study strayed from the above negative feelings. Many of the subjects viewed their debts with a sense of pride. Debt related to college is evidence that the person is trying to advance themselves intellectually and in the world.
Positivity related to debt didn’t just stop with student loan debt. The young subjects even felt good about their credit card debt. Why? Credit card debt enhanced the subjects’ self-esteem, again, because much of the money went to improving their lives. Overall, debt makes many of the young consumers feel like they are finally adults.
The reporter of the CBS Money Watch piece challenges that idea. He doesn’t see debt as something to aspire to or something that consumers should see as necessary in order to succeed as adults. A lot of those “successful adults” who racked up debt to get to where they are struggling, too, at this point in the economy.
Essentially, the writer sees consumers’ perception of excessive debt as “normal” as a threat to the economic future of a younger generation.
What do you think about young people and their borrowing and spending habits? Some think that this recession has made more frugal consumers of the younger generation. Do you believe that?
CBS Money Watch, “Proud to Owe: Why Young People Feel Good About Debt,” Dan Kadlec, June 14, 2011