Personal Loans ‘Growing Like A Weed’, Potential Red Flag In U.S.
Debt from personal loans is close to the January 2008 peak, and most of the fintech companies issuing the debt were not around during the last crisis so they have not been tested in a downturn, according to the Washington Post.
Data from consumer credit agency Equifax shows that personal loans are up more than 10 percent from a year ago and growing at a pace not seen on a sustained basis since shortly before the Great Recession. All three of the major consumer credit agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — report double-digit growth in this market in recent months.
This comes as a surprise to experts at a time when the economy looks healthy, raising questions about why so many people are seeking more cash.
There’s low unemployment, the stock market is soaring, and the Dow topped 28,000 for the first time. But even after one of the biggest tax cuts in history, GDP growth was 1.9 percent for the third quarter. Trump promised 3 percent per quarter or more.
“And thanks to the big tax cut, the federal deficit is skyrocketing to truly crazy numbers — more than $1 trillion per year, with $22.6 trillion in overall federal debt. This is a ticking time bomb, made all the more scary by politicians and voters who think we can continue to ignore it,” according to an opinion piece in the Beaumont Enterprise.
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Medical debt is forcing American families to take risks, Sarah Gantz wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer. As out-of-pocket costs continue to rise — outpacing growth in wages — unpaid medical bills are piling up on kitchen counters across the country.
The average personal loan balance in the U.S. is now $16,259, according to Experian — similar to credit card debt. Personal loan balances more than $30,000 have increased by 15 percent in the past five years.
The recent increase in personal loans coincides with an explosion of fintech apps and websites that have made the borrowing process easy for consumers to do in the comfort of their homes, Washington Post reported. Fintech companies now account for almost 40 percent of personal loan balances, up from 5 percent in 2013, according to TransUnion.
“Definitely yellow flares should be starting to go off,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, Washington Post reported. “There’s an old adage in banking: if it’s growing like a weed, it probably is a weed.”