It has become almost trite to describe current U.S. economic circumstances in terms of the biblical prophecy that seven years of plenty will be followed by seven years of famine. But the analogy is still apt. The consequences of a debt-induced asset bubble last long after it bursts. The debt built up during the bubble is a burden that inhibits economic growth for years after memories of the good times have faded.

Consumers have decidedly changed their behavior, eschewing the use of credit and concentrating instead on reducing debts. As long as the tendency toward frugality persists, the growth of consumer spending will be restrained. And as the consumer goes, so goes the rest of the economy. Instead of the annualized 5% to 7% growth rates that were common after the end of recessions from the 1950s through the 1980s, a 2.5% to 3.5% GDP growth rate may be all that can be hoped for in the next few years.

The explosion in the use of credit by the household sector between 2000 and 2007 was unprecedented. Total household debt relative to disposable income rose from 90% in 2000 to 130% by 2007. Most of that debt was in residential mortgages, and it fueled a rapid rise in home prices until the bubble burst in 2007. Since then, average house prices have fallen about 27%. The debt remains, however, leaving millions of homeowners underwater on their mortgages, owing more than their homes are worth.

Complete your profile to continue reading and get FREE access to Treasury & Risk, part of your ALM digital membership.

  • Critical Treasury & Risk information including in-depth analysis of treasury and finance best practices, case studies with corporate innovators, informative newsletters, educational webcasts and videos, and resources from industry leaders.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM and Treasury & Risk events.
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including and

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.