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The members of America's silent generation don't have very much in common with Gen Z — the former is the oldest generation of consumers born between 1928 and 1945, while the latter is our country's youngest and most diverse generation to date.
However, a look at Experian's latest State of Credit report shows that both groups exhibit the same excellent credit behavior of paying their bills on time compared to millennials, Gen X and baby boomers.
The youngest and oldest generations also carry the lightest debt load, which makes sense given that neither group is at the height of their mid-life responsibilities.
The silent generation has the highest average credit score of 729, thanks in part to having the longest time for their credit card accounts to mature. They have fewer credit cards on average than boomers, between two and three, and an average credit utilization rate of 13%, compared to 24% for boomers.
The average silent generation consumer has $12,869 of debt, including credit cards and installment loans. Silent generation homeowners have an average mortgage balance of $159,517.
Here's a full break down of Experian's 2020 findings by generation:
A surprising number of Americans are still carrying some form of debt even after they retire. And it's not just the youngest retirees: Recent data from the Federal Reserve shows that even older retirees ages 75+ have debt balances to their name.
According to a recent survey by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, nonmortgage debt affects 46% of retirees, including 14% with $10,000 or more. Some 23% of retirees have mortgage debt (including equity loans or lines of credit), with 6% who have $100,000 or more.
If you're struggling with debt, regardless of your age, here are a few tips to try to get it under control.
1. Know the interest rate on your debt
Not all debt is created equal. Some debt delivers a return on your investment, such as when you build equity in a home by slowly paying off your mortgage. And since mortgage interest rates are so low, it doesn't cost as much to carry that debt as it does other kinds of "toxic" or high-interest debt, like credit cards.
If you're juggling stubborn debt that just won't go away, start by prioritizing the highest-interest balances first. This is a popular debt payoff strategy known as the avalanche method. Write out a list with all your balances and the corresponding interest rates. Then use a debt payoff calculator to see how long it will take to become debt free and make a plan to get these balances under control.
Want to slash your interest rates to zero?: With a limited-time promotional 0% APR, balance transfer card allow you to pay no interest on existing debt for up to 21 months. Some of the best no-interest credit cards that offer balance transfers are the Wells Fargo Platinum card, the Citi Simplicity® Card and the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card. (Learn about the pros and cons of balance transfer cards.)
2. Keep your quality of life in mind
If quickly paying off debt is impossible with your income level, consider how to manage it while living comfortably in retirement. Retirees may want to downsize or refinance their mortgage, which can free up money for everyday living expenses and paying off more high-interest debt. There's a lot to consider if you're looking to refinance in retirement, so make sure to do your research and potentially speak to a financial advisor before you do.
3. Make an estate plan
Working with an estate planner or attorney can bring seniors who have debt peace of mind. Depending on the amount of your debt and what assets you have (including life insurance), you may learn that your debt is a very small concern in the grand scheme of things.
However, if you still owe a considerable amount that won't be covered by your assets (for example, a large mortgage), it will be good to know what debt will be dissolved and what debt could potentially cut into the value of your estate. When writing your will and making arrangements for your estate, consider how debt could impact what your heirs stand to inherit.
Information about the Wells Fargo Platinum Card has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.