charts & analysis: Grossly Misunderstood Debt

Grossly Misunderstood Debt

The chart that has often cited by Bill Gross and others, as reflecting a surge in total credit market debt as a percentage of GDP, is distorted by a number of factors. One of the most significant of these factors is that many families have substituted mortgage payments for rents and have thus increased their debt ratio without changing their costs. Ironically, the shift has built significant equity value. Further, when the long-term series is viewed on a standard logarithmic scale to show percentage gains over time, the chart becomes much less dramatic. On a real basis, adjusting for inflation, the rate of growth has been relatively constant over the past 50 years.