Financial Planning

Lessons from the mortgage mess

DebtIf you're looking for a comprehensive analysis of the mortgage crisis, you could do worse than the Feb. 13 edition of "Fresh Air," a daily talk show that originates at Philadelphia's National Public Radio station, WHYY.

On that show, host Terry Gross interviews Gretchen Morgenson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning financial reporter and business columnist for The New York Times. Morgenson takes a stab at explaining the impact the crisis has had on the economy and American consumers, and she offers this word of warning: Things won't be getting better anytime soon. The reason: Home buyers who took out mortgages with low "teaser" rates in 2005 -- and there were a lot of them -- are next in line to see their rates skyrocket.

That's a scary thought, given the recent report that foreclosures in the Baltimore region soared 544 percent from 2006 to 2007.

Morgenson also examines the roles of "megabanks," the Federal Reserve rate cuts, what those cuts mean for consumers, and more. Listen to the full interview here.

If any good has come from the mortgage mess, it might be the renewed emphasis on personal debt. "One message that is finally getting through to the American consumer is that debt is a problem," Morgenson says. "Assets may shrink in value, but debt never does."

CPAs have been trying to get that message across for years. Perhaps financial literacy's time has finally come.


Bill Sheridan