Stock Market Insights: The U.S. debt ceiling

He said, “I have almost $120,000 in credit card debt, and my wife doesn’t know about all of it.”

It was back in my banker days, and this doctor came to me hoping I would give him a loan to pay off his credit cards. I told him his problem wasn’t his debt but his spending.

The U.S. government also has a spending problem.

Don’t max out your credit card if you can’t control your spending. There’s a lot of talk about the U.S. debt ceiling, which can be confusing. In the simplest terms, the U.S. government has been spending way more than it makes and has had to use credit to pay its bills. It has been paying “interest only” on the debt for years and won’t have enough money in a few weeks to even pay the interest payments.

So America has a spending problem.

The phrase “debt ceiling” means the day the U.S. can’t pay its interest payments anymore and defaults on its loans. According to the Treasury Department, the U.S. government made just less than $5 trillion in 2022 but spent more than $6 trillion. In other words, the U.S. government spent almost 28% more than it made.

No business or family will be financially successful by spending 28% more than it makes, and the U.S. government is no different. The problem is its spending, not the debt ceiling, and the problem will never be solved if Congress keeps raising the ceiling and spending with abandon.

This is a political issue. Most Americans seem to want the government to stop spending so much money, but they don’t want it to stop spending on the things they like.

The government needs to reduce its spending and live within its budget. But what area should it spend less money in? For example, should it spend less on health care, education, the military, clean energy incentives or Medicaid for low-income families? I doubt either party would cut spending on Medicare for older adults or Social Security, but wherever the government reduces spending, it will negatively impact someone.

What troubles me is that the U.S. government can’t pay its bills when the economy is still somewhat hot, and the unemployment rate is at a 54-year low of 3.4%. So what happens to its debt problem when we are in a major recession?

Congress will raise the debt limit to allow the government to take on more unhealthy debt, just like it always does because politicians want to keep getting elected. But raising the debt ceiling is only a short-term solution. Congress must find a long-term solution to fix government spending and increase tax revenue.

The stock market will be tricky for the next few weeks as Congress negotiates a solution. So be flexible in your investment program to take advantage of whichever way it goes. As I frequently say, there is money to be made in every market.

A church sign near my house read, “Live within your harvest,” and I couldn’t agree more. I didn’t give the doctor a loan but told him he had to figure out a way to live below his income so that he could save for emergencies.

My advice is the same to the U.S. government.

By the way, I never saw that doctor again.

Have a blessed week.

Fervent Wealth Management is a financial management and services entity in Springfield, Mo. Securities and advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor, Member FINRA/SIPC.

Opinions are for general information only and not intended as specific advice or recommendations. All performance cited is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and can’t be invested in directly.

The economic forecast outlined in this material may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.

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