Renters' Greater Burden

From TV programs to the newspaper headlines, you can't avoid a growing certainty—Americans are in debt. New data from the Federal Reserve confirm this unpleasant state of affairs and add fire to the flame. Currently, Americans pay about 13% of after-tax income to service their debts. When you add additional recurring liabilities such as auto leases and rent, the figure rises to 18%. Although these numbers are slightly below the record highs reached in 2001, they are still 2 percentage points greater than those recorded in 1993. And there is reason to believe that renters are struggling even more with the burden of debt than homeowners. According to the fed's data, renters' financial obligations have climbed to a daunting 29% of after-tax income from just 22.5% in 1993. Researchers speculate that the differences between homeowners' and renters' levels of financial burden stem from the gap between rich and poor households— homeowners tend to be in a higher financial class. From 1992 to 2001, renters' incomes rose 22%, while homeowners' incomes rose 60%.