Waging a War on Debt

So, what happens when millions of people tighten their belts in order to keep up with their mortgage payments?

I’ll tell you what happens: Retail sales plummet.

Case in point: In the UK, where a home-buying boom has seen both house prices skyrocket and consumers become overleveraged with debt, the current slide in retail sales has been called the worst in a quarter of a century.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) revealed yesterday that retail sales dropped more last month than they have in the past 22 years. Twenty-two years! Forty-two percent of the businesses surveyed reported year-over-year sales losses.

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Chief UK Economist John Butler calls the results “absolutely shocking.” He also said, “This latest update on the UK consumer points to recession.”

Gavin Redknap, an economist with London’s Standard Chartered Bank, kept his statement to the point. “This is pretty dismal,” he said.

The UK economy is clearly suffering–and I believe debt’s to blame.

Economists are saying inflated oil prices, a weak job market, and high interest rates are to blame, but I think it’s much simpler than that.

People aren’t spending any money because they don’t have any money left to spend. It’s a black and white issue.

If you were maxxed out on debt, and every penny of your income went to debt payments and general cost of living expenses (groceries, medications, etc.), how much money would you be spending on retail purchases? That’s right, $0.

Although ultimately you have to put some blame on individual consumers for allowing themselves to get into this mess, I have a serious bone to pick with the lenders.

Why do they make it so easy for people to put themselves into trouble, financially? Why do they approve a consumer for a credit card, loan, or mortgage when the borrower is so overleveraged in the first place?

In my view, the banks and other lending institutions need to learn how to say “No!”

If these mortgages, loans, credit cards, leases, and financing plans were turned down at the application stage, we wouldn’t be seeing record levels of bad debts, lost sales, and suffering businesses. Heck, I’d venture to say the current economic slowdown in the UK (and the one that will likely hit us soon in North America) is linked to bad decisions regarding debt management on the part of both institutions and individuals.

Remember the “Just Say No” slogan from Reagan’s War on Drugs? What we need now is a “War on Debt.”

If the UK had waged such a war a few years ago, the country wouldn’t be facing its current economic predicament.

However, if we North Americans initiate a War on Debt today, perhaps we can prevent such an economic slowdown here at home.

Here’s your challenge: Spread the word on the War on Debt, and the next time you want to use plastic or you’re thinking about accepting a new credit card offer… JUST SAY “NO!”