Debt is when something, usually money, is owed by one party, the borrower or debtor, to a second party, the lender or creditor. Debt is a deferred payment, or series of payments, that is owed in the future, which is what differentiates it from an immediate purchase. The debt may be owed by sovereign state or country, local government, company, or an individual. Commercial debt is generally subject to contractual terms regarding the amount and timing of repayments of principal and interest.[1] Loans, bonds, notes, and mortgages are all types of debt. The term can also be used metaphorically to cover moral obligations and other interactions not based on economic value.[2] For example, in Western cultures, a person who has been helped by a second person is sometimes said to owe a "debt of gratitude" to the second person.

Payday loan shop window
Payday loan businesses lend money to customers, who then owe a debt to the payday loan company.


The English term "debt" was first used in the late 13th century.[3] The term "debt" comes from "dette, from Old French dete, from Latin debitum "thing owed," neuter past participle of debere "to owe," originally, "keep something away from someone," from de- "away" (see de-) + habere "to have" (see habit (n.)). Restored spelling [was used] after c. 1400.[4] The related term "debtor" was first used in English also in the early 13th century; the terms "dettur, dettour, [came] from Old French detour, from Latin debitor "a debter," from past participle stem of debere;...The -b- was restored in later French, and in English c. 1560-c. 1660." In the King James Bible, various spellings are used; the spellings "detter [are used] three times, debter three times, debtor twice and debtour once." [5]



Interest is the fee paid by the borrower to the lender. Interest is calculated as a percentage of the outstanding principal, which percentage is known as an interest rate, and is generally paid periodically at intervals, such as monthly or semi-annually.

Interest rates may be fixed or floating. In floating-rate structures, the rate of interest that the borrower pays during each time period is tied to a benchmark such as LIBOR or, in the case of inflation-indexed bonds, inflation.

There are many different conventions for calculating interest. Depending on the terms of the debt, compound interest may accumulate at a specific interval. In addition, different day count conventions exist, for example, sometimes each month is considered to have exactly thirty days, such that the interest payment due is the same in each calendar month. The annual percentage rate (APR) is a standardized way to calculate and compare interest rates on an annual basis. Quoting interest rates using APR is required by regulation for most loans to individuals in the United States and United Kingdom.

For some loans, the amount actually loaned to the debtor is less than the principal sum to be repaid. This may be because upfront fees or points are charged, or because the loan has been structured to be sharia-compliant. The additional principal due at the end of the term has the same economic effect as a higher interest rate.

Riskier borrowers must generally pay higher rates of interest to compensate lenders for taking on the additional risk of default. Debt investors assess the risk of default prior to making a loan, for example through credit scores and corporate and sovereign ratings.


There are three main ways repayment may be structured: the entire principal balance may be due at the maturity of the loan; the entire principal balance may be amortized over the term of the loan; or the loan may partially amortized during its term, with the remaining principal due as a "balloon payment" at maturity. Amortization structures are common in mortgages and credit cards.

Default provisions

Debtors of every type default on their debt from time to time, with various consequences depending on the terms of the debt and the law governing default in the relevant jurisdiction. If the debt was secured by specific collateral, such as a car or home, the creditor may seek to repossess the collateral. In more serious circumstances, individuals and companies may go into bankruptcy.

Types of borrowers


Common types of debt owed by individuals and households include mortgage loans, car loans, credit card debt, and income taxes. For individuals, debt is a means of using anticipated income and future purchasing power in the present before it has actually been earned. Commonly, people in industrialized nations use consumer debt to purchase houses, cars and other things too expensive to buy with cash on hand.

People are more likely to spend more and get into debt when they use credit cards vs. cash for buying products and services.[6][7][8][9][10] This is primarily because of the transparency effect and consumer's "pain of paying."[8][10] The transparency effect refers to the fact that the further you are from cash (as in a credit card or another form of payment), the less transparent it is and the less you remember how much you spent.[10] The less transparent or further away from cash, the form of payment employed is, the less an individual feels the “pain of paying” and thus is likely to spend more.[8] Furthermore, the differing physical appearance/form that credit cards have from cash may cause them to be viewed as “monopoly” money vs. real money, luring individuals to spend more money than they would if they only had cash available.[9][11]

Besides these more formal debts, private individuals also lend informally to other people, mostly relatives or friends. One reason for such informal debts is that many people, in particular those who are poor, have no access to affordable credit. Such debts can cause problems when they are not paid back according to expectations of the lending household. In 2011, 8 percent of people in the European Union reported their households has been in arrears, that is, unable to pay as scheduled "payments related to informal loans from friends or relatives not living in your household".[12]


A company may use various kinds of debt to finance its operations as a part of its overall corporate finance strategy.

A term loan is the simplest form of corporate debt. It consists of an agreement to lend a fixed amount of money, called the principal sum or principal, for a fixed period of time, with this amount to be repaid by a certain date. In commercial loans interest, calculated as a percentage of the principal sum per year, will also have to be paid by that date, or may be paid periodically in the interval, such as annually or monthly. Such loans are also colloquially called "bullet loans", particularly if there is only a single payment at the end – the "bullet" – without a "stream" of interest payments during the life of the loan.

A revenue-based financing loan comes with a fixed repayment target that is reached over a period of several years. This type of loan generally comes with a repayment amount of 1.5 to 2.5 times the principle loan. Repayment periods are flexible; businesses can pay back the agreed-upon amount sooner, if possible, or later. In addition, business owners do not sell equity or relinquish control when using revenue-based financing. Lenders that provide revenue-based financing work more closely with businesses than bank lenders, but take a more hands-off approach than private equity investors.[13]

A syndicated loan is a loan that is granted to companies that wish to borrow more money than any single lender is prepared to risk in a single loan. A syndicated loan is provided by a group of lenders and is structured, arranged, and administered by one or several commercial banks or investment banks known as arrangers. Loan syndication is a risk management tool that allows the lead banks underwriting the debt to reduce their risk and free up lending capacity.

A company may also issue bonds, which are debt securities. Bonds have a fixed lifetime, usually a number of years; with long-term bonds, lasting over 30 years, being less common. At the end of the bond's life the money should be repaid in full. Interest may be added to the end payment, or can be paid in regular installments (known as coupons) during the life of the bond.

A letter of credit or LC can also be the source of payment for a transaction, meaning that redeeming the letter of credit will pay an exporter. Letters of credit are used primarily in international trade transactions of significant value, for deals between a supplier in one country and a customer in another. They are also used in the land development process to ensure that approved public facilities (streets, sidewalks, stormwater ponds, etc.) will be built. The parties to a letter of credit are usually a beneficiary who is to receive the money, the issuing bank of whom the applicant is a client, and the advising bank of whom the beneficiary is a client. Almost all letters of credit are irrevocable, i.e., cannot be amended or canceled without prior agreement of the beneficiary, the issuing bank and the confirming bank, if any. In executing a transaction, letters of credit incorporate functions common to giros and traveler's cheque. Typically, the documents a beneficiary has to present in order to receive payment include a commercial invoice, bill of lading, and a document proving the shipment was insured against loss or damage in transit. However, the list and form of documents is open to imagination and negotiation and might contain requirements to present documents issued by a neutral third party evidencing the quality of the goods shipped, or their place of origin.

Companies also use debt in many ways to leverage the investment made in their assets, "leveraging" the return on their equity. This leverage, the proportion of debt to equity, is considered important in determining the riskiness of an investment; the more debt per equity, the riskier.


Government debt gdp
Government debt as a percentage of national GDP
1979 $10,000 Treasury Bond
1979 U.S. Government $10,000 treasury bond

Governments issue debt to pay for ongoing expenses as well as major capital projects. Government debt may be issued by sovereign states as well as by local governments, sometimes known as municipalities.

Debt issued by the government of the United States, called Treasuries, serves as a reference point for all other debt. There are deep, transparent, liquid, and open capital markets for Treasuries.[14] Furthermore, Treasuries are issued in a wide variety of maturities, from one day to thirty years, which facilitates comparing the interest rates on other debt to a security of comparable maturity. In finance, the theoretical "Risk-free rate" rate is often approximated by practitioners by using the current yield a Treasury of the same duration.

The overall level of indebtedness by a government is typically shown as a ratio of debt-to-GDP. This ratio helps to assess the speed of changes in government indebtedness and the size of the debt due.

Assessments of creditworthiness

Income metrics

The debt service coverage ratio is the ratio of income available to the amount of debt service due (including both interest and principal amortization, if any). The higher the debt service coverage ratio, the more income is available to pay debt service, and the easier and lower-cost it will be for a borrower to obtain financing.

Different debt markets have somewhat different conventions in terminology and calculations for income-related metrics. For example, in mortgage lending in the United States, a debt-to-income ratio typically includes the cost of mortgage payments as well as insurance and property tax, divided by a consumer's monthly income. A "front-end ratio" of 28% or below, together with a "back-end ratio" (including required payments on non-housing debt as well) of 36% or below is also required to be eligible for a conforming loan.

Value metrics

The loan-to-value ratio is the ratio of the total amount of the loan to the total value of the collateral securing the loan.

For example, in mortgage lending in the United States, the loan-to-value concept is most commonly expressed as a "down payment." A 20% down payment is equivalent to an 80% loan to value. With home purchases, value may be assessed using the agreed-upon purchase price, and/or an appraisal.

Collateral and recourse

A debt obligation is considered secured if creditors have recourse to specific collateral. Collateral may include claims on tax receipts (in the case of a government), specific assets (in the case of a company) or a home (in the case of a consumer). Unsecured debt comprises financial obligations for which creditors do not have recourse to the assets of the borrower to satisfy their claims.

Role of rating agencies

Credit bureaus collect information about the borrowing and repayment history of consumers. Lenders, such as banks and credit card companies, use credit scores to evaluate the potential risk posed by lending money to consumers. In the United States, the primary credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Debts owed by governments and private corporations may be rated by rating agencies, such as Moody's, Standard & Poor's, Fitch Ratings, and A. M. Best. The government or company itself will also be given its own separate rating. These agencies assess the ability of the debtor to honor his obligations and accordingly give him or her a credit rating. Moody's uses the letters Aaa Aa A Baa Ba B Caa Ca C, where ratings Aa-Caa are qualified by numbers 1-3. S&P and other rating agencies have slightly different systems using capital letters and +/- qualifiers. Thus a government or corporation with a high rating would have Aaa rating.

A change in ratings can strongly affect a company, since its cost of refinancing depends on its creditworthiness. Bonds below Baa/BBB (Moody's/S&P) are considered junk or high-risk bonds. Their high risk of default (approximately 1.6 percent for Ba) is compensated by higher interest payments. Bad Debt is a loan that can not (partially or fully) be repaid by the debtor. The debtor is said to default on his debt. These types of debt are frequently repackaged and sold below face value. Buying junk bonds is seen as a risky but potentially profitable investment.

Debt markets

Loans versus bonds

Bonds are debt securities, tradeable on a bond market. A country's regulatory structure determines what qualifies as a security. For example, in North America, each security is uniquely identified by a CUSIP for trading and settlement purposes. In contrast, loans are not securities and do not have CUSIPs (or the equivalent). Loans may be sold or acquired in certain circumstances, as when a bank syndicates a loan.

Loans can be turned into securities through the securitization process. In a securitization, a company sells a pool of assets to a securitization trust, and the securitization trust finances its purchase of the assets by selling securities to the market. For example, a trust may own a pool of home mortgages, and be financed by residential mortgage-backed securities. In this case, the asset-backed trust is a debt issuer of residential mortgage-backed securities.

Role of central banks

Central banks, such as the U.S. Federal Reserve System, play a key role in the debt markets. Debt is normally denominated in a particular currency, and so changes in the valuation of that currency can change the effective size of the debt. This can happen due to inflation or deflation, so it can happen even though the borrower and the lender are using the same currency.


Some argue against debt as an instrument and institution, on a personal, family, social, corporate and governmental level. Islam forbids lending with interest even today. In hard times, the cost of servicing debt can grow beyond the debtor's ability to pay, due to either external events (income loss) or internal difficulties (poor management of resources).

Debt with an associated interest rate will increase through time if it is not repaid faster than it grows through interest. This effect may be termed usury, while the term "usury" in other contexts refers only to an excessive rate of interest, in excess of a reasonable profit for the risk accepted.

In international legal thought, odious debt is debt that is incurred by a regime for purposes that do not serve the interest of the state. Such debts are thus considered by this doctrine to be personal debts of the regime that incurred them and not debts of the state. International Third World debt has reached the scale that many economists are convinced that debt relief or debt cancellation is the only way to restore global equity in relations with the developing nations.

Excessive debt accumulation has been blamed for exacerbating economic problems. For example, before the Great Depression, the debt-to-GDP ratio was very high. Economic agents were heavily indebted. This excess of debt, equivalent to excessive expectations on future returns, accompanied asset bubbles on the stock markets. When expectations corrected, deflation and a credit crunch followed. Deflation effectively made debt more expensive and, as Fisher explained, this reinforced deflation again, because, in order to reduce their debt level, economic agents reduced their consumption and investment. The reduction in demand reduced business activity and caused further unemployment. In a more direct sense, more bankruptcies also occurred due both to increased debt cost caused by deflation and the reduced demand.

At the household level, debts can also have detrimental effects — particularly when households make spending decisions assuming income will increase, or remain stable, in years to come. When households take on credit based on this assumption, life events can easily change indebtedness into over-indebtedness. Such life events include unexpected unemployment, relationship break-up, leaving the parental home, business failure, illness, or home repairs. Over-indebtedness has severe social consequences, such as financial hardship, poor physical and mental health,[15] family stress, stigma, difficulty obtaining employment, exclusion from basic financial services (European Commission, 2009), work accidents and industrial disease, a strain on social relations (Carpentier and Van den Bosch, 2008), absenteeism at work and lack of organisational commitment (Kim et al., 2003), feeling of insecurity, and relational tensions.[16]

Levels and flows

Global debt underwriting grew 4.3 percent year-over-year to US$5.19 trillion during 2004. It is expected to rise in the coming years if the spending habits of millions of people worldwide continue the way they do.


Traditions in some cultures demand that debt be forgiven on a regular (often annual) basis, in order to prevent systemic inequities between groups in society, or anyone becoming a specialist in holding debt and coercing repayment. An example is the Biblical Jubilee year, described in the Book of Leviticus.[17]

See also


  1. ^ Superior Court of Pennsylvania (1894). "Brooke et al versus the City of Philadelphia et al". Weekly Notes of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, the County Courts of Philadelphia, and the United States District and Circuit Courts for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Kay and brother. 34 (18): 348.
  2. ^ "debt". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ "Debt". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  4. ^ "Debt". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  5. ^ "Debt". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  6. ^ Chatterjee, P., & Rose, R. L. (2012). Do payment mechanisms change the way consumers perceive products? Journal of Consumer Research, 38(6), 1129–1139.
  7. ^ Pettit, N. C., & Sivanathan, N. (2011). The plastic trap. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2(2), 146-153.
  8. ^ a b c Prelec, D. & Loewenstein, G. (1998). The red and the black: Mental accounting of savings and debt. Marketing Science, 17(1), 4-28.
  9. ^ a b Raghubir, P. & Srivastava, J. (2008), Monopoly money: The effect of payment coupling and form on spending behavior. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 14 (3), 213–25.
  10. ^ a b c Soman, D. (2003). The effect of payment transparency on consumption: Quasi experiments from the field. Marketing Letters, 14, 173–183.
  11. ^ Chatterjee, P., & Rose, R. L. (2012). Do payment mechanisms change the way consumers perceive products? Journal of Consumer Research, 38(6), 1129–1139.
  12. ^ "Household over-indebtedness in the EU: The role of informal debts" (PDF). Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg. 2013. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  13. ^ Uzialko, Adam. "Using Revenue-Based Financing to Grow Your Business". Business News Daily. Retrieved 5 December 2018.
  14. ^ Lew, Jacob (2016), America and the Global Economy, Foreign Affairs, May/June 2016.
  15. ^ Fitch; et al. (2011). "The relationship between debt and mental health: a systematic review". Mental Health Review Journal. 16 (4): 153–166. doi:10.1108/13619321111202313.
  16. ^ Dubois, Hans; Anderson, Robert (2010). "Managing household debts: Social service provision in the EU. Working paper. Dublin: European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions" (PDF). European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  17. ^ Hudson, Michael (2018). ...and Forgive Them Their Debts: Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption From Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year. Islet. ISBN 978-3981826029.

Bankruptcy is a legal status of a person or other entity who cannot repay debts to creditors. In most jurisdictions, bankruptcy is imposed by a court order, often initiated by the debtor.

Bankruptcy is not the only legal status that an insolvent person may have, and the term bankruptcy is therefore not a synonym for insolvency. In some countries, such as the United Kingdom, bankruptcy is limited to individuals; other forms of insolvency proceedings (such as liquidation and administration) are applied to companies. In the United States, bankruptcy is applied more broadly to formal insolvency proceedings. In France, the cognate French word banqueroute is used solely for cases of fraudulent bankruptcy, whereas the term faillite (cognate of "failure") is used for bankruptcy in accordance with the law.

Bond (finance)

In finance, a bond is an instrument of indebtedness of the bond issuer to the holders. The most common types of bonds include municipal bonds and corporate bonds.

The bond is a debt security, under which the issuer owes the holders a debt and (depending on the terms of the bond) is obliged to pay them interest (the coupon) or to repay the principal at a later date, termed the maturity date. Interest is usually payable at fixed intervals (semiannual, annual, sometimes monthly). Very often the bond is negotiable, that is, the ownership of the instrument can be transferred in the secondary market. This means that once the transfer agents at the bank medallion stamp the bond, it is highly liquid on the secondary market.Thus a bond is a form of loan or IOU: the holder of the bond is the lender (creditor), the issuer of the bond is the borrower (debtor), and the coupon is the interest. Bonds provide the borrower with external funds to finance long-term investments, or, in the case of government bonds, to finance current expenditure. Certificates of deposit (CDs) or short-term commercial paper are considered to be money market instruments and not bonds: the main difference is the length of the term of the instrument.

Bonds and stocks are both securities, but the major difference between the two is that (capital) stockholders have an equity stake in a company (that is, they are owners), whereas bondholders have a creditor stake in the company (that is, they are lenders). Being a creditor, bondholders have priority over stockholders. This means they will be repaid in advance of stockholders, but will rank behind secured creditors, in the event of bankruptcy.

Another difference is that bonds usually have a defined term, or maturity, after which the bond is redeemed, whereas stocks typically remain outstanding indefinitely. An exception is an irredeemable bond, such as a consol, which is a perpetuity, that is, a bond with no maturity.

Capital market

A capital market is a financial market in which long-term debt (over a year) or equity-backed securities are bought and sold. Capital markets channel the wealth of savers to those who can put it to long-term productive use, such as companies or governments making long-term investments. Financial regulators like the Bank of England (BoE) and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) oversee capital markets to protect investors against fraud, among other duties.

Modern capital markets are almost invariably hosted on computer-based electronic trading platforms; most can be accessed only by entities within the financial sector or the treasury departments of governments and corporations, but some can be accessed directly by the public. As an example, in the United States, any American citizen with an internet connection can create an account with TreasuryDirect and use it to buy bonds in the primary market, though sales to individuals form only a tiny fraction of the total volume of bonds sold. Various private companies provide browser-based platforms that allow individuals to buy shares and sometimes even bonds in the secondary markets. There are many thousands of such systems, most serving only small parts of the overall capital markets. Entities hosting the systems include stock exchanges, investment banks, and government departments. Physically, the systems are hosted all over the world, though they tend to be concentrated in financial centres like London, New York, and Hong Kong.

Collateralized debt obligation

A collateralized debt obligation (CDO) is a type of structured asset-backed security (ABS). Originally developed as instruments for the corporate debt markets, after 2002 CDOs became vehicles for refinancing mortgage-backed securities (MBS). Like other private label securities backed by assets, a CDO can be thought of as a promise to pay investors in a prescribed sequence, based on the cash flow the CDO collects from the pool of bonds or other assets it owns. Distinctively, CDO credit risk is typically assessed based on a PD derived from ratings on those bonds or assets. The CDO is "sliced" into "tranches", which "catch" the cash flow of interest and principal payments in sequence based on seniority. If some loans default and the cash collected by the CDO is insufficient to pay all of its investors, those in the lowest, most "junior" tranches suffer losses first. The last to lose payment from default are the safest, most senior tranches. Consequently, coupon payments (and interest rates) vary by tranche with the safest/most senior tranches receiving the lowest rates and the lowest tranches receiving the highest rates to compensate for higher default risk. As an example, a CDO might issue the following tranches in order of safeness: Senior AAA (sometimes known as "super senior"); Junior AAA; AA; A; BBB; Residual.Separate special purpose entities—rather than the parent investment bank—issue the CDOs and pay interest to investors. As CDOs developed, some sponsors repackaged tranches into yet another iteration, known as "CDO-Squared", "CDOs of CDOs" or "synthetic CDOs".In the early 2000s, the debt underpinning CDOs was generally diversified, but by 2006–2007—when the CDO market grew to hundreds of billions of dollars—this had changed. CDO collateral became dominated by high risk (BBB or A) tranches recycled from other asset-backed securities, whose assets were usually subprime mortgages. These CDOs have been called "the engine that powered the mortgage supply chain" for subprime mortgages, and are credited with giving lenders greater incentive to make subprime loans, leading to the 2007-2009 subprime mortgage crisis.

Debt bondage

Debt bondage, also known as debt slavery or bonded labour, is the pledge of a person's services as security for the repayment for a debt or other obligation, where the terms of the repayment are not clearly or reasonably stated, and the person who is holding the debt and thus has some control over the laborer, does not intend to ever admit that the debt has been repaid. The services required to repay the debt may be undefined, and the services' duration may be undefined, thus allowing the person supposedly owed the debt to demand services indefinitely. Debt bondage can be passed on from generation to generation.Currently, debt bondage is the most common method of enslavement with an estimated 8.1 million people bonded to labour illegally as cited by the International Labour Organization in 2005. Debt bondage has been described by the United Nations as a form of "modern day slavery" and the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery seeks to abolish the practice.The practice is still prevalent primarily in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, although most countries in these regions are parties to the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery. It is predicted that 84 to 88% of the bonded labourers in the world are in South Asia. Lack of prosecution or insufficient punishment of this crime are the leading causes of the practice as it exists at this scale today.

Debtors' prison

A debtors' prison is a prison for people who are unable to pay debt. Through the mid 19th century, debtors' prisons (usually similar in form to locked workhouses) were a common way to deal with unpaid debt in places like Western Europe. Destitute persons who were unable to pay a court-ordered judgment would be incarcerated in these prisons until they had worked off their debt via labor or secured outside funds to pay the balance. The product of their labor went towards both the costs of their incarceration and their accrued debt. Increasing access and lenience throughout the history of bankruptcy law have made prison terms for unaggravated indigence illegal over most of the world.

Since the late 20th century, the term debtors' prison has also sometimes been applied by critics to criminal justice systems in which a court can sentence someone to prison over willfully unpaid criminal fees, usually following the order of a judge. For example, in some jurisdictions within the United States, people can be held in contempt of court and jailed after willful non-payment of child support, garnishments, confiscations, fines, or back taxes. Additionally, though properly served civil duties over private debts in nations such as the United States will merely result in a default judgment being rendered in absentia if the defendant willfully declines to appear by law, a substantial number of indigent debtors are legally incarcerated for the crime of failing to appear at civil debt proceedings as ordered by a judge. In this case, the crime is not indigence, but disobeying the judge's order to appear before the court. Critics argue that the "willful" terminology is subject to individual mens rea determination by a judge, rather than statute, and that since this presents the potential for judges to incarcerate legitimately indigent individuals, it amounts to a de facto "debtors' prison" system.

European debt crisis

The European debt crisis (often also referred to as the eurozone crisis or the European sovereign debt crisis) is a multi-year debt crisis that has been taking place in the European Union since the end of 2009. Several eurozone member states (Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Cyprus) were unable to repay or refinance their government debt or to bail out over-indebted banks under their national supervision without the assistance of third parties like other eurozone countries, the European Central Bank (ECB), or the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The detailed causes of the debt crisis varied. In several countries, private debts arising from a property bubble were transferred to sovereign debt as a result of banking system bailouts and government responses to slowing economies post-bubble. The structure of the eurozone as a currency union (i.e., one currency) without fiscal union (e.g., different tax and public pension rules) contributed to the crisis and limited the ability of European leaders to respond. European banks own a significant amount of sovereign debt, such that concerns regarding the solvency of banking systems or sovereigns are negatively reinforcing.As concerns intensified in early 2010 and thereafter, leading European nations implemented a series of financial support measures such as the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and European Stability Mechanism (ESM). The ECB also contributed to solve the crisis by lowering interest rates and providing cheap loans of more than one trillion euro in order to maintain money flows between European banks. On 6 September 2012, the ECB calmed financial markets by announcing free unlimited support for all eurozone countries involved in a sovereign state bailout/precautionary programme from EFSF/ESM, through some yield lowering Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT).Return to economic growth and improved structural deficits enabled Ireland and Portugal to exit their bailout programmes in July 2014. Greece and Cyprus both managed to partly regain market access in 2014. Spain never officially received a bailout programme. Its rescue package from the ESM was earmarked for a bank recapitalisation fund and did not include financial support for the government itself.

The crisis has had significant adverse economic effects and labour market effects, with unemployment rates in Greece and Spain reaching 27%, and was blamed for subdued economic growth, not only for the entire eurozone, but for the entire European Union. As such, it can be argued to have had a major political impact on the ruling governments in 10 out of 19 eurozone countries, contributing to power shifts in Greece, Ireland, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Slovenia, Slovakia, Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as outside of the eurozone, in the United Kingdom.

External debt

External loan (or foreign debt) is the total debt a country owes to foreign creditors; its complement is internal debt which is owed to domestic lenders. The debtors can be the government, corporations or citizens of that country. The debt includes money owed to private commercial banks, other governments, or international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. Note that the use of gross liability figures greatly distorts the ratio for countries which contain major money centers such as the United Kingdom due to London's role as a financial capital. Contrast with net international investment position.

Government debt

Government debt (also known as public interest, public debt, national debt and sovereign debt) contrasts to the annual government budget deficit, which is a flow variable that equals the difference between government receipts and spending in a single year. The debt is a stock variable, measured at a specific point in time, and it is the accumulation of all prior deficits.

Government debt can be categorized as internal debt (owed to lenders within the country) and external debt (owed to foreign lenders). Another common division of government debt is by duration until repayment is due. Short term debt is generally considered to be for one year or less, and long term debt is for more than ten years. Medium term debt falls between these two boundaries. A broader definition of government debt may consider all government liabilities, including future pension payments and payments for goods and services which the government has contracted but not yet paid.

Governments create debt by issuing government bonds and bills. Less creditworthy countries sometimes borrow directly from a supranational organization (e.g. the World Bank) or international financial institutions.

Monetarily sovereign countries (such as the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Australia and most other countries, in contrast with eurozone countries) that issue debt denominated in their home currency can make payments on the interest or principal of government debt by creating money, although at the risk of higher inflation. In this way their debt is different from that of households, which are restricted by their income. Thus such government bonds are at least as safe as any other bonds denominated in the same currency.

A central government with its own currency can pay for its spending by creating money ex novo. In this instance, a government issues securities not to raise funds, but instead to remove excess bank reserves (caused by government spending that is higher than tax receipts) and '...create a shortage of reserves in the market so that the system as a whole must come to the [central] Bank for liquidity.'

Greek government-debt crisis

The Greek government-debt crisis (also known as the Greek Depression) is the sovereign debt crisis faced by Greece in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2007–08. Widely known in the country as The Crisis (Greek: Η Κρίση), it reached the populace as a series of sudden reforms and austerity measures that led to impoverishment and loss of income and property, as well as a small-scale humanitarian crisis. In all, the Greek economy suffered the longest recession of any advanced capitalist economy to date, overtaking the US Great Depression. As a result, the Greek political system has been upended, social exclusion increased with hundreds of thousands of well-educated Greeks leaving the country.The Greek crisis started in late 2009, triggered by the turmoil of the Great Recession, structural weaknesses in the Greek economy, monetary policy inflexibility (being a member of the Eurozone), and revelations that previous data on government debt levels and deficits had been underreported by the Greek government (the official forecast for the 2009 budget deficit was less than half the final value as calculated in 2010, while after revisions according to Eurostat methodology, the 2009 government debt was finally raised from €269.3 bn to €299.7 bn, i.e., about 11% higher than previously reported).

This led to a crisis of confidence, indicated by a widening of bond yield spreads and rising cost of risk insurance on credit default swaps compared to the other Eurozone countries, particularly Germany. The government enacted 12 rounds of tax increases, spending cuts, and reforms from 2010 to 2016, which at times triggered local riots and nationwide protests. Despite these efforts, the country required bailout loans in 2010, 2012, and 2015 from the International Monetary Fund, Eurogroup, and European Central Bank, and negotiated a 50% "haircut" on debt owed to private banks in 2011, which amounted to a €100bn debt relief (a value effectively reduced due to bank recapitalisation and other resulting needs). After a popular referendum which rejected further austerity measures required for the third bailout, and after closure of banks across the country (which lasted for several weeks), on June 30, 2015, Greece became the first developed country to fail to make an IMF loan repayment on time (payment was made with a 20-day delay). At that time, debt levels had reached €323bn or some €30,000 per capita (a per capita value still below the OECD average, but high as a percentage of the respective GDP).

Between 2009 and 2017 the Greek government debt rose from €300 bn to €318 bn, i.e. by only about 6% (thanks, in part, to the aforementioned debt restructuring); however, during the same period, the critical debt-to-GDP ratio shot up from 127% to 179% due to the severe GDP drop during the handling of the crisis.

High-yield debt

In finance, a high-yield bond (non-investment-grade bond, speculative-grade bond, or junk bond) is a bond that is rated below investment grade. These bonds have a higher risk of default or other adverse credit events, but typically pay higher yields than better quality bonds in order to make them attractive to investors.

Leveraged buyout

A leveraged buyout (LBO) is a financial transaction in which a company is purchased with a combination of equity and debt, such that the company's cash flow is the collateral used to secure and repay the borrowed money. The use of debt, which normally has a lower cost of capital than equity, serves to reduce the overall cost of financing the acquisition. The cost of debt is lower inter alia because interest payments often reduce corporate income tax liability, whereas dividend payments normally do not. This reduced cost of financing allows greater gains to accrue to the equity, and, as a result, the debt serves as a lever to increase the returns to the equity.The term LBO is usually employed when a financial sponsor acquires a company. However, many corporate transactions are partially funded by bank debt, thus effectively also representing an LBO. LBOs can have many different forms such as management buyout (MBO), management buy-in (MBI), secondary buyout and tertiary buyout, among others, and can occur in growth situations, restructuring situations, and insolvencies. LBOs mostly occur in private companies, but can also be employed with public companies (in a so-called PtP transaction – Public to Private).

As financial sponsors increase their returns by employing a very high leverage (i.e., a high ratio of debt to equity), they have an incentive to employ as much debt as possible to finance an acquisition. This has, in many cases, led to situations in which companies were "over-leveraged", meaning that they did not generate sufficient cash flows to service their debt, which in turn led to insolvency or to debt-to-equity swaps in which the equity owners lose control over the business to the lenders.

List of countries by public debt

This is a list of countries by public debt to GDP ratio as listed by CIA's World Factbook and IMF. Net debt figure is the cumulative total of all government borrowings less repayments that are denominated in a country's home currency.


In finance, a loan is the lending of money by one or more individuals, organizations, or other entities to other individuals, organizations etc. The recipient (i.e. the borrower) incurs a debt, and is usually liable to pay interest on that debt until it is repaid, and also to repay the principal amount borrowed.

The document evidencing the debt, e.g. a promissory note, will normally specify, among other things, the principal amount of money borrowed, the interest rate the lender is charging, and date of repayment. A loan entails the reallocation of the subject asset(s) for a period of time, between the lender and the borrower.

The interest provides an incentive for the lender to engage in the loan. In a legal loan, each of these obligations and restrictions is enforced by contract, which can also place the borrower under additional restrictions known as loan covenants. Although this article focuses on monetary loans, in practice any material object might be lent.

Acting as a provider of loans is one of the main activities of financial institutions such as banks and credit card companies. For other institutions, issuing of debt contracts such as bonds is a typical source of funding.

Mezzanine capital

In finance, mezzanine capital is any subordinated debt or preferred equity instrument that represents a claim on a company's assets which is senior only to that of the common shares. Mezzanine financings can be structured either as debt (typically an unsecured and subordinated note) or preferred stock.

Mezzanine capital is often a more expensive financing source for a company than secured debt or senior debt. The higher cost of capital associated with mezzanine financings is the result of its being an unsecured, subordinated (or junior) obligation in a company's capital structure (i.e., in the event of default, the mezzanine financing is only repaid after all senior obligations have been satisfied). Additionally, mezzanine financings, which are usually private placements, are often used by smaller companies and may involve greater overall levels of leverage than issues in the high-yield market; they thus involve additional risk. In compensation for the increased risk, mezzanine debt holders require a higher return for their investment than secured or more senior lenders.

Money market

As money became a commodity, the money market became a component of the financial market for assets involved in short-term borrowing, lending, buying and selling with original maturities of one year or less. Trading in money markets is done over the counter and is wholesale.

There are several money market instruments in most Western countries, including treasury bills, commercial paper, bankers' acceptances, deposits, certificates of deposit, bills of exchange, repurchase agreements, federal funds, and short-lived mortgage- and asset-backed securities. The instruments bear differing maturities, currencies, credit risks, and structure and thus may be used to distribute exposure.Money markets, which provide liquidity for the global financial system including for capital markets, are part of the broader system of financial markets.

National debt of the United States

The national debt of the United States was $21.97 trillion (as of 2018). This is the total debt, or unpaid borrowed funds, carried by the federal government of the United States, which is measured as the face value of the currently outstanding Treasury securities that have been issued by the Treasury and other federal government agencies. The terms national deficit and national surplus usually refer to the federal government budget balance from year to year, not the cumulative amount of debt. A deficit year increases the debt, while a surplus year decreases the debt as more money is received than spent.

The US national debt can be divided between intragovernmental debt and publicly held debt.

There are two components of gross national debt:

Debt held by the public, such as Treasury securities held by investors outside the federal government, including those held by individuals, corporations, the Federal Reserve System, and foreign, state and local governments.

Debt held by government accounts or intragovernmental debt, are non-marketable Treasury securities held in accounts of programs administered by the federal government, such as the Social Security Trust Fund. Debt held by government accounts represents the cumulative surpluses, including interest earnings, of various government programs that have been invested in Treasury securities.In general, government debt increases as a result of government spending, and decreases from tax or other receipts, both of which fluctuate during the course of a fiscal year. In practice, Treasury securities are not issued or redeemed on a day-by-day basis, and may also be issued or redeemed as part of the federal government's macroeconomic management operations.

Historically, the US public debt as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) has increased during wars and recessions, and subsequently declined. The ratio of debt to GDP may decrease as a result of a government surplus or due to growth of GDP and inflation. For example, debt held by the public as a share of GDP peaked just after World War II (113% of GDP in 1945), but then fell over the following 35 years. In recent decades, aging demographics and rising healthcare costs have led to concern about the long-term sustainability of the federal government's fiscal policies. The aggregate, gross amount that Treasury can borrow is limited by the United States debt ceiling.As of December 31, 2018, debt held by the public was $16.1 trillion and intragovernmental holdings were $5.87 trillion, for a total or "National Debt" of $21.97 trillion. Debt held by the public was approximately 76.4% of GDP in Q3 2018. In 2017, the US debt-to-GDP ratio was ranked 43rd highest out of 207 countries. The Congressional Budget Office forecast in April 2018 that the ratio will rise to nearly 100% by 2028, perhaps higher if current policies are extended beyond their scheduled expiration date. The United States has the largest external debt in the world and the 14th largest government debt as a % of GDP in the world.

Security (finance)

A security is a tradable financial asset. The term commonly refers to any form of financial instrument, but its legal definition varies by jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions the term specifically excludes financial instruments other than equities and fixed income instruments. In some jurisdictions it includes some instruments that are close to equities and fixed income, e.g., equity warrants. In some countries and languages the term "security" is commonly used in day-to-day parlance to mean any form of financial instrument, even though the underlying legal and regulatory regime may not have such a broad definition.

In the United Kingdom, the national competent authority for financial markets regulation is the Financial Conduct Authority; the definition in its Handbook of the term "security" applies only to equities, debentures, alternative debentures, government and public securities, warrants, certificates representing certain securities, units, stakeholder pension schemes, personal pension schemes, rights to or interests in investments, and anything that may be admitted to the Official List.

In the United States, a security is a tradable financial asset of any kind. Securities are broadly categorized into:

debt securities (e.g., banknotes, bonds and debentures)

equity securities (e.g., common stocks)

derivatives (e.g., forwards, futures, options, and swaps).The company or other entity issuing the security is called the issuer. A country's regulatory structure determines what qualifies as a security. For example, private investment pools may have some features of securities, but they may not be registered or regulated as such if they meet various restrictions.

Securities may be represented by a certificate or, more typically, "non-certificated", that is in electronic (dematerialized) or "book entry" only form. Certificates may be bearer, meaning they entitle the holder to rights under the security merely by holding the security, or registered, meaning they entitle the holder to rights only if he or she appears on a security register maintained by the issuer or an intermediary. They include shares of corporate stock or mutual funds, bonds issued by corporations or governmental agencies, stock options or other options, limited partnership units, and various other formal investment instruments that are negotiable and fungible.

United States federal budget

The United States federal budget comprises the spending and revenues of the U.S. federal government. The budget is the financial representation of the priorities of the government, reflecting historical debates and competing economic philosophies. The government primarily spends on healthcare, retirement, and defense programs. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office provides extensive analysis of the budget and its economic effects. It has reported that the U.S. is facing a series of long-term financial challenges, as the population of the country ages and healthcare costs continue growing faster than the economy, leading to the debt held by the public (a partial measure of national debt) exceeding GDP by 2030. The United States has the largest external debt in the world and the 14th largest government debt as % of GDP in the world.

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