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Explore the Surprising Faces of Debt In America

The Debt Project, a new series by photographer Brittany M. Powell, illuminates the real people behind the numbers.

Brittany Powell, The Debt Project

Hundreds of millions of Americans currently shoulder staggering debt that threatens to spiral them into financial insecurity. According to a recent study by the Federal Reserve, 1 in 50 households carry more than $20,000 in credit card debt, with the U.S. population as a whole owing more than 2.4 trillion. Of that inconceivable amount, $60 billion is from credit cards, at an average of $7,327 per household. This is not a faceless statistic. Many workers, still recovering from the seismic shock of the Great Recession, give over a sizable portion of their paycheck each month to cover these debts. In a shocking study commissioned by ProPublica and ADP, it was reported, “more than one in 10 employees in the prime working ages of 35 to 44 had their wages garnished in 2013.” Debt, the elephant in the room, is an insidious and often invisible force. Whether it’s from student loans, medical bills, credit cards, or real estate, the burden can feel so substantial that it almost seems like a physical presence in our lives. The Debt Project, a photo series by San Francisco-based photographer Brittany M. Powell, hopes to illuminate what debt really looks like by peering into the surroundings of those living beneath its weight. The result is a group of intimate photos, still under development, that show the real and often banal face of financial hardship.

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Croatia Forgives the Debt of 60,000 of its Poorest Citizens

The government passed a measure that would help relieve the economic burden of a $4.1 billion national debt.

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanović. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

The Croatian government just passed a radical measure that would clear the debt of an estimated 60,000 of its citizens. The “Fresh Start” initiative is part of an effort to offset the deleterious impact of a six years-long recession on the economy. About 317,000 Croations don’t even have use of their bank accounts anymore, because outstanding debts to the government have blocked their access.

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In the Red and Got the Blues: Debt Fuels Depression

It turns out that short-term debt can increase depressive symptoms. Makes sense, doesn't it?

Here's a study whose findings we've all seen in action, but maybe never identified: debt can be depressing. Literally. Here's this, from Boston College's Financial Security Project:

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Wealth Club: How to Navigate the Grad School Debt Dance

What you need to know about financing another round of higher education.

In our financial advice column for the centsless, Michael Fleck fields questions on how to get your money right.

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Financial Fitness Task 12: Make a Plan to Pay Off Your Debt #30DaysofGOOD

No one likes debt. Here are three steps to get out of it.

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What the U.S. Credit Rating Actually Means—And How to Fix It

Our fractured process and the inability of the two parties to compromise inspired the S&P to throw up its hands.

After an afternoon of contentious wrangling over the numbers, Standard & Poor's, the global bond rating agency, declared Friday for the first time since 1917—when the company issued its very first rating—that U.S. government debt is no longer the good-as-cash investment it has always been. The agency knocked the rating down a notch from AAA to AA+. This is bad news, but specific repercussions will be hard to pin down until the markets open Monday morning. (The two other major ratings agencies still say that U.S. debt is AAA. )

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