Renters' Greater Burden

Physician's Money Digest, January15 2004, Volume 11, Issue 1

From TV programs to the newspaperheadlines, you can't avoid a growing certainty—Americans are in debt. New datafrom the Federal Reserve confirm thisunpleasant state of affairs and add fire tothe flame. Currently, Americans payabout 13% of after-tax income to servicetheir debts. When you add additionalrecurring liabilities such as auto leasesand rent, the figure rises to 18%. Althoughthese numbers are slightly belowthe record highs reached in 2001, they arestill 2 percentage points greater thanthose recorded in 1993. And there is reasonto believe that renters are strugglingeven more with the burden of debt thanhomeowners. According to the fed'sdata, renters' financial obligations haveclimbed to a daunting 29% of after-taxincome from just 22.5% in 1993. Researchersspeculate that the differencesbetween homeowners' and renters' levelsof financial burden stem from the gapbetween rich and poor households—homeowners tend to be in a higher financialclass. From 1992 to 2001, renters'incomes rose 22%, while homeowners'incomes rose 60%.