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In our efforts to keep up with the Joneses (or just get by during this period of economic uncertainty), debt has become a normalized part of the American lifestyle.
Borrowing money is often an important part of a long-term financial plan, whether it's to access education and career opportunities, buy a car for your commute or find a place to call home.
However, debt also involves a little risk and can be expensive. Not only do you pay interest and fees, borrowing of any kind requires you to make your payments on time in order to keep your account and credit score in good standing. It's not uncommon for consumers to make a few common mistakes while learning how credit works and establishing lifelong money habits.
That's why knowledge is important: Using 2019 data from credit bureau Experian, we looked at how much debt the average American has at every stage of their lives, breaking it down by total balance(s) and type, so you can get a big-picture view of how much Americans are borrowing, and why.
While the average American has $90,460 in debt, this includes all types of consumer debt products, from credit cards to personal loans, mortgages and student debt.
Along with staying informed about financial planning, reading advice about saving for retirement and learning credit card basics — knowing where you stand can help you decide where to go next on your financial journey.
Here's the average debt balances by age group:
- Gen Z (ages 18 to 23): $9,593
- Millennials (ages 24 to 39): $78,396
- Gen X (ages 40 to 55): $135,841
- Baby boomers (ages 56 to 74): $96,984
- Silent generation (ages 75 and above): $40,925
According to Experian, consumers in the two oldest age categories have seen a significant decrease in debt since 2015 (about -7.5% for baby boomers and -7.7% for the silent generation overall).
A balance transfer card can help Americans of all ages save on interest:
- Check out the Citi® Double Cash Card —has no annual fee and a long intro APR period for balance transfers.
Consider a personal loan to consolidate debt — get matched with a lender here, or check out these options:
- For those with good to excellent credit, LightStream may fit your needs; for those with fair credit, LendingPoint is worth a look.
For student loan refinancing:
- Compare lenders through Credible, or check out our list of best student loan refinance companies with SoFi as our top pick.
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Meanwhile, millennials have seen the largest increase in debt in the last five years: In 2015, the average millennial had about $49,722 in debt, and by 2019 they carried an average of $78,396 in total debt — an increase of 58%.
The youngest consumers, Gen Z, have the lowest overall debt balance on average, but they struggle the most to make payments. About 12.24% of Gen Z's credit card accounts were 30 days or more past due in 2019. Gen X has the highest average debt balance in all categories, except for personal loans.
Here's the breakdown:
- Credit cards: Gen X have the highest credit card balance compared to other age groups, at $8,215.
- Auto loans: Gen X have the highest auto loan balance, at $21,570.
- Mortgage loans: Gen X have the highest average mortgage balance, at $238,344. Millennials were a close second, at $224,500.
- Personal loans: On average, baby boomers have the highest personal loan balance of $19,253 (compared to the lowest, Gen Z, at $4,526).
- Student loans: Gen X have the highest amount of student loan debt, an average of $39,981.
- HELOC: Home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) averaged highest for Gen X, at $49,221.
To compare your credit profile with the averages above, pull your free credit report and sign up for a free credit monitoring service.
Experian offers a free credit monitoring service that allows you to sign up without providing a credit card number and gives you a one-stop look at your entire borrower profile. See all of your credit cards and loans, plus their balances, in one place. Keep track of your on-time payments and monitor your accounts for fraudulent activity.
As you can see, it's normal to carry debt, but staying on top of it will protect your credit score and ensure that you have access to the right kinds of products at lower interest rates for years to come.
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