<Is it really that bad out there that we as a consumer of wireless products have to go out of our way to secure our wireless networks?>
Consumer level wireless gear doesn't implement security features in a way that makes them reliably secure.. so the answer, in my opinion, would be yes.
<I mean, the average consumer is going to be clueless with all of this.>
The average consumer isn't even qualified to purchase a computer without assistance. Not that this is a bad thing, it's natural with just about every other industry. I'm not a furniture expert, so when I go to purchase some furniture, I'm going to do my research and talk to people who are experts so I can make sure I'm getting exactly what I need. This is the same thing if I'm buying a car.
There are a lot of purchases that the average person can make on their own, like food and lightweight appliances (i.e. toasters). And there are a lot of purchases that most people should not make on their own, because they won't be able to get the best product for their needs since they're not experts on the product. Unfortunately, people have thrown computers and computer equipment into the same category as food. Go to the store, pull something off the shelf, plug it in, and use it.
It doesn't work that way. There are many computer experts out there, and lots of niche shops that can give very specific advice on what to buy. But if one does not do their research, then head to a big-box shop and purchase something.. they should expect that they will not end up with what they want.
<I spent the whole weekend reading installation manuals and help files. I was jazzed that I could actually get everything communicating with one another and functioning without fail.>
That's great.. it's a lot of fun to get something working for the first time.
<There is just way too much information for the average consumer to assimilate.>
Yes, there is. That's one reason there are service companies out there that do this.. quickly, and for a reasonable price. I have no problem with the do-it-yourselfers (I am one with many different projects), but the DIY projects usually require lots of time and research to do them correctly.
<The manufacturers of the wireless products need to take the extra step to make sure protection is in place as a default setting.>
But if it's default, then it's not very protective. The default login and password for a Linksys router is "<blank>" and "admin", and the defalut for a DLink is "admin" and "<blank>". It doesn't really matter if the defaults are simple or complex. The fact that they are defaults makes them public, and no more secure than having no security set. People are just as unlikely to change the default passwords as they are to set them in the first place.