U.S. National Debt Calculator

Individual Household Share
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Did you come to this page expecting someone to be railing against the US National debt?

If that's the case, you may be disappointed.

Sure, as a US citizen, I'm concerned about our debt, and I will get into that shortly. I will pose a question that no one anywhere seems to be asking. Not the politicians. Not the press. And most importantly, not the voters. If that's what you a looking for, then skip the next bit and continue reading below the calculator.

If you are still with me, I need to point out a few things about this calculator since it works slightly differently than other amortization schedules. I created this calculator for two reasons. First, I wanted to create a calculator that will handle VERY LARGE DEBT. And what debt is bigger than the current National debt? More below

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There have been times in the past when larger municipalities or other government entities have been in the process of issuing debt in excess of a billion dollars, and they needed a coupon payment schedule. Fundamentally, this calculator creates an amortization schedule for bond debt. Notice when you preview the schedule or print it, there is no mention of "National Debt." The printed version of the debt schedule looks like the other schedules on this site. This is by design.

Secondly, I wanted to introduce the concept of shared debt. Perhaps a parent agrees to split the payment for a student loan with their child. This calculator handles this scenario. Enter the total loan amount and two for the number of households. The calculator divides the payment amount in half, and the schedule amortizes half the debt.

Our National Debt and the Sources Used

All values are the latest available as of March 2024. (Links will open in a new tab.)

According to the U.S. Treasury Department, the debt stands at nearly 34.5 trillion dollars. The exact amount is preloaded and clicking the clear button will reset it.

The debt is increasing by the day, if you want to update the figure, use the above treasurydirect.gov link "Debt to the Penny."

The U.S. Census Bureau calculates the number of U.S. households. The most recent number (131,434 in thousands) reported is from Nov. 2023. To check for updates, use this Census Bureau link: Table HH-1. Households by Type: 1940 to Present (.xls filie).

Finally, the default interest rate is the current coupon rate on the 30-Year U.S. Government Bond as reported by Bloomberg (as of Mar. 2024 4.25%). I used this rate because I wanted to amortize the debt over 30 years.

However, in once sense, this slightly overstates the problem. The term for much of the debt issued is shorter than 30 years, and the rate of interest paid is lower than 4.25%. Currently, 10-year bonds, for example, have a 4.0% coupon rate. And even a 0.25% difference in rates makes a very big difference in interest paid on a debt that is over $34 trillion! (During the past few years, rates have been fluctuating more than they usually due. This information will likely be out dated quickly. That's why I provide the links.)

On the other hand, using 4.25% may understate the problem. If the Government borrows money for five years, at the end of five years, we don't know where rates will be. It may be we will not be able to refinance our debt at the current five-year rate. In fact, to roll the debt over (it is almost always never retired), the Government may have to pay a rate that is higher than 4.25%.

In any event, 4.25% seems like a good compromise. Of course, feel free to use any interest rate you want.

Why does the debt have to be refinanced?

A Quick Word About Bonds and Refinancing

Government debt is financed using bonds (or short-term Treasury Notes). Governments sell bonds to raise money. In exchange, buyers of the bonds receive coupon payments that are most frequently (though perhaps not always) paid every six months.

Coupon payments are interest payments. The payment does not include any principal.

Thus, the money borrowed is being financed just like an interest-only mortgage. The loan balance is not declining.

You can see how this type of financing works by setting the amortization method to interest-only. One huge payment is due at the end! The country refinances this debt if it doesn't have the money to pay the principal when the bond comes due. Never paying off the principal on current debt plus running an annual budget deficit are the reasons why the National debt keeps growing.

A Few Final Words About the National Debt

Conservatives worry that we will "end up like Greece" - short on cash and having austerity forced on us by bond holders.

At least some liberal economists, on the other hand, are not concerned about the current US debt. CNSNEWS.COM quotes Paul Krugman, a Nobel Laureate and New York Times columnist, saying:

“The United States is a country that has its own currency--can’t run out of cash because we print the money. If you even try to think what would happen--suppose that investors get down on the United States. Even so, that would weaken the dollar, not send interest rates soaring, and that would be good. That would help our exports,” Krugman said on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers.”

Who's right?

I have no idea.

But to me, who's right is not the issue, and the National Debt Calculator makes that clear.

Change the number of households to 1 so the calculator amortizes the entire debt. Set the amortization method to interest only (for the reasons mentioned above). Click on Print Preview and check out the "Total Interest Due" - just over 44 trillion dollars (44,068,646,712,178.99 [When I last updated this number, it was 11,122,909,633,333.28. The increase is due to both an increase in the interest rate used and the increase in the debt.]).

That's Trillion with a capital "T." Or looked at in a different way, the interest amount alone could cover the entire Federal spending at present levels for more than four years. It could cover the cost for all of Defense, for all of Social Security for all of Medicare, for everything - for four years or more. Amazing.

Over the next 30 years, not even a working lifetime, we will have to pay nearly what we currently owe today in coupon interest. And let's be clear what interest is. It is the cost we pay for borrowing money. It is not the cost of what we buy with the money we borrow. Interest makes everything we buy as a nation more expensive.

The increase in our interest payments is staggering. So, this is what I want to know...

A Question for All Politicians

The next time you see a politician, ask them this:

What are we getting for our money?

If they can't give you a good answer, perhaps it's time to make a change.

If you have an answer, or even if you don't, feel free to leave your thoughts below.

Comments, suggestions & questions welcomed...

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