Guest Opinion: DR Has Opportunity to Help Manage Debt Load

Quick question: Who here drives a car? I see just about everyone raised their hand — except our readers in New York, Boston, and the other major metros where mass transit is the real deal.

OK, who leases their vehicle? Wow, that’s more than I thought.

How’s your lease working out for you? Kind of a mixed bag? If you exceed your (ever-shrinking) annual mileage allowance, you’re left holding the bag, right? Yeah, I’ve been down that road. For me, leasing just isn’t right — but it is the right way for many.

By now, you’re probably asking yourself: “What’s up with all this car stuff?” Great question — I promise, I’ll make it relevant to DR in just a few sentences!

Just two more questions:

  1. Who owns their vehicle outright? Ugh … that’s not very many at all.

  2. If you lease a vehicle, or still make payments on the purchase of one, what’s your monthly payment? Too high? That’s the most common answer I hear!

Economic Trends

The reason for all my questions is that I’ve been looking at trends in the automotive financing and student-loan markets for a while, and just wanted you to see my train of thought before I dive in head first. In direct response, we’ve become experts at spotting trends and helping our clients capitalize on them. Sometimes we’ve noticed a trend too late, when we’re careening toward, or already deep into, a recession. Today, however, because of superior information, we can get ahead of trends and be true stewards of our communities, our clients, and our companies — all while being true, red-blooded American capitalists!

If we want to make a positive impact in the automotive and student-loan debt markets, it would pay for us to know something about where they are in their business cycles. Per the July 2017 ITR Economic Advisor, we’re sporting about $1 trillion in student and automotive loans. Yes: that’s a one with 12 zeros after it. That’s very nearly where we were before the Great Recession in 2008, with one major difference: both automotive and student-loan defaults are sitting at or below their respective 10-year averages. And that’s huge, because it demonstrates that, economically speaking, we’re in good health.

Yes, there are circumstances beyond our control — geopolitical strife, which often seems distant and disconnected to us, as well as natural disasters that have taken an almost indescribable human toll. But for reasons beyond my ability to explain, these don’t seem to diminish our appetites for buying vehicles or seeking higher education.

The Real Impact on Marketing

So, while I’m truly ambivalent about these oddly juxtaposed streams of reality, I do see our economic engine’s growth as mostly good news — and an even better opportunity for us in marketing to act with humility and care by assisting consumers who need financial help, either in securing financing for their upcoming car purchases or seeking relief from burdensome student loans.

Thanks to the role we play in bringing buyers and sellers together, I believe we have a unique responsibility. We deserve more credit for facilitating business than we might give ourselves, and we sell ourselves short if we don’t do that. But the fact that we’re so close to the increased velocity of money between so many buying and selling segments means we have a powerful responsibility to act with care and good stewardship.

My point is simple: it’s perfectly acceptable as capitalists to help those who want loans find legitimate and credible ways of getting them. It’s equally okay for us to help those who are in need of help restructuring burdensome student loans. But we needn’t act from a pure profit motive. Our purpose, first and foremost, is to be of service. That’s my take. What’s yours?