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Hilsenrath, Jon; Simon, Ruth.
Wall Street Journal
[New York, N.Y] 22 Oct 2011: .1.
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Ms. Bullock-Morley is among a generation of Americans who were taught the value of saving as children but had
to learn the hard way how to spend wisely. Since the financial crisis erupted, millions of Americans have ditched
their credit cards, accelerated…
American consumers' long-running love affair with debt is on the rocks. And as they repent for their credit-driven
Bacchanalia, the foundering U.S. economy is left to pick up the pieces.
Anita Bullock-Morley, a 36-year-old speech therapist in Atlanta, is one who talks about her old borrowing habits
like a recovering drug addict: "My life is so much better not having that haunting debt."
She used savings to help pay for her wedding last year. And after wiping out the balance on two dozen credit
cards -- and swearing off boutique-label purchases and fancy vacations -- she is working her way through $50,000
in student loans and the $215,000 left on her mortgage. Ms. Bullock-Morley is among a generation of Americans
who were taught the value of saving as children but had to learn the hard way how to spend wisely.
Since the financial crisis erupted, millions of Americans have ditched their credit cards, accelerated mortgage
payments and cut off credit lines that during the good times were used like a bottomless piggybank. Many have
resorted to a practice once thought old-fashioned -- delaying purchases until they have the cash.
As a result, total household debt -- through payment or default -- fell by $1.1 trillion, or 8.6%, from mid-2008
through the first half of 2011, according to the
Federal Reserve Bank of New York
. Auto loan and credit-card
balances in August had their biggest drop since April 2010, the Federal Reserve said.
The national belt-tightening, known as deleveraging, comes as the U.S. economy struggles to fend off a
double-dip recession. Paying off bills slows consumer spending on appliances, travel and a slew of other products
and services. Home sales, the engine of past economic recoveries, remain depressed.
Many other Americans aren't borrowing because they can't -- either because of credit defaults, tightened bank