So I was reading on Forbes and it said a 2017 survey showed that

28% of workers making $50,000-$99,999 usually or always live paycheck to paycheck, and 70% are in debt.

I wonder what kind of financial status would be described as "in debt". If I have a 30-year mortgage to pay, am I in debt? Or if I have college loan to pay, am I in debt? Thank you very much for your time!

  • There is no universal definition of "in debt". You'd need to look at how the specific survey defined the term. That might be specified in the Forbes article but I'd guess it probably isn't. I'm sure assuming Forbes commissioned the study that they got that information but they might not have published it. – Justin Cave Apr 22 '20 at 22:45
  • Apparently, it's based on the personal opinion of each respondent and not very scientific- "71 percent of all workers say they're in debt." forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2019/01/11/… press.careerbuilder.com/… – DSway Jul 27 '20 at 22:53

Surveys from the US Census Bureau, the Fed and others typically distinguish between different types of debt, including home debt, vehicle debt, student loans, credit card debt. For a household, the most logical interpretation of “in debt” is having negative net wealth. To compute net wealth, you add the value of all the property and assets and subtract all debt. Unsecured debt like student loans, credit card debts, etc. would only count as negative wealth. For secured debt, like a mortgage, it's more complicated. If the collateral (the house) is worth more than what's left to pay on the mortgage, your net wealth might be positive.

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