As the Great Recession faded, American household debt gradually decreased. In fact, it declined by $1 trillion between mid-2008 and mid-2014, according to the Federal Reserve.1
Now household debt is increasing once more. The Fed found it climbing by $78 billion (0.7%) during Q3 2014.1
On the macroeconomic level, that can be interpreted as a positive: it hints at greater consumer spending, easier credit, and more lending taking place to accommodate consumer borrowers. On a microeconomic level, it is more troublesome. It may mean a change in perception, with debt not seeming as onerous as it once did.
If households really are looking at debt through rosier-colored glasses, they might do well to remember an inescapable fact. When they use a credit card or take out a consumer loan, they are borrowing money they do not have for things they do not absolutely need. The average indebted U.S. household was carrying $15,611 in credit card debt alone in December, the Fed notes. Even if Mom or Dad is a business owner or self-employed entrepreneur, that is an awful lot of revolving debt for a couple or family.2