The purpose of this paper is to examine factors associated with changes in the proportion of households with high financial obligations ratios in the United States. The proportion of households paying more than 40% of income for debt, rent, vehicle leases, property taxes and homeowners’ insurance, which we refer to as having a heavy burden, increased from 18% in 1992 to 27% in 2007. Multivariate analysis of a combination of six Survey of Consumer Finances data sets indicates that the likelihood of having a heavy burden was positively associated with homeownership, self-employment and retirement status. Those with an optimistic 5-year expectation of the economy were more likely to be in a household with a heavy burden. Education was positively related to having a heavy burden, suggesting that having a heavy burden is not simply a cognitive error.