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Debt and Borrowing are Relative

Hopefully, if you are reading my blog, your investment of 2 minutes each day will help you think differently about debt, borrowing, and wealth creation. This can impact you positively both personally, and professionally.

You see a lot about people talking about debt being low on a relative basis, but relative to what? It is 'true' primarily when you look at debt as a percentage of the money supply.

The money supply is how much cash is out there, and as a percentage of that, you can see the green line is going down. (chart below)

The blue line is all debt, in absolute terms. You can see that while it was paid down some in the 2007-8 crisis, it has been going up ever since that time. It just feels different because there was so much new money out there. New money waters down the old money. If you add water to paint, the paint goes on smoother, but if you mix in too much water the paint doesn't do a very good job of covering the wall...


You have $1,000 cash and you borrow $500. You now have $1,500 to spend instead of $1,000, but your net worth doesn't go up because you owe $500, only your capability to spend goes up... that $500 didn't exist until you borrowed it.

You can now spend $1,500, whereas before you could only spend $1,000... that's a 30% increase in buying capacity. When you spend that $500 now you are demanding money from your future self to enjoy that spending now, and your future self will demand it back in the future with interest.

All borrowing is demand pulled forward (fun now) and when you pay it back it is a loss of demand (no fun then).

That's what we are facing now at a macro level, the outstanding debt (demand pulled forward now) keeps going up, and the increase in money supply just makes it feel manageable. If your parents gave you $5 a week as an allowance, and everything you want to buy for $5 now costs you $10... 1) you can buy half as much (painful), or 2) if your parents increase your allowance to $10 each week, you can buy the same amount. (not painful). Is the FED just increasing our allowance so we can buy the same so we complain less? Will they ever have to pay it back through higher taxes or some other means?

At your individual level - be aware and play your own game. Manage your borrowing and assets as best you can and help your clients do the same. You can't keep borrowing from your future self forever and not have it matter. Borrow, but borrow smart. Repay, but repay smart.

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