Polonius wouldnt have gotten very far in America today. He's the Shakespeare character in Hamlet who warned, neither a borrower, nor a lender be.
Modern society, as we know all too well, is overrun with both borrowers and lenders. But just how big is the typical family's debt? How fast is it growing? How does your mortgage compare to the Joneses next door? And how might consumer debt -- your debt -- affect the U.S. economy?
We decided to look at the most recent numbers and take a snapshot of household debt in the United States, circa 2004. What emerges is a picture that's both familiar and unsettling. Yes, consumer debt -- encompassing credit cards, mortgages, student loans and more -- is growing like a well-fed St. Bernard puppy. No, there's no sign that the growth will slow. Yes, some economists worry about the ill effects, but no, not many of them are sounding urgent alarms.