How much debt does the average American have?

Credit, Financial education

Most Americans have borrowed money at some time during their lives, either by taking out a loan or by using a credit card. While debt often gets a bad reputation, it can also be a useful financial tool. Without the help of loans and credit cards, many people couldn’t afford to pay for homes, cars, medical bills, or other major expenses.

So how much money does the average American owe?

In this article, we look at average debt by generation. We also cover some effective strategies for paying off your debt.

Here’s what we cover:

  • How much money does the average American owe?
  • What is the average debt by generation?
  • How can I start paying off my debt?

Key takeaways

  • As of 2020, the average American has $92,727 of debt. This amount includes credit card balances, auto loans, mortgages, personal loans, and student loans.
  • The average amount of debt varies by generation. Debt balances tend to increase until people reach middle age. When people get closer to retirement, their debt usually starts to decrease. However, many retired Americans still carry a substantial amount of debt.
  • If you want to lower your debt, it helps to have a plan. One strategy is to reduce your debt’s interest rates. You may be able to get lower interest rates by refinancing your loans or consolidating your debt.

How much money does the average American owe?

According to a 2020 Experian study, the average American carries $92,727 in consumer debt. Consumer debt includes a variety of personal credit accounts, such as credit cards, auto loans, mortgages, personal loans, and student loans.

Credit cards

Credit cards are the most common type of credit account in the United States. About 75 percent of Americans have at least one credit card, and the average American has four credit cards at once. The average credit card balance is $5,315.

Auto loans

About 60 percent of Americans have auto loans to help pay for their cars. The average auto loan balance is $19,703.

Mortgages

About 44 percent of Americans carry mortgages on their homes. The average mortgage balance is $208,185.

Personal loans

About 22 percent of Americans have personal loans. The average personal loan balance is $16,458.

Student loans

About 14 percent of Americans have student loans. The average student loan balance is $38,792.

What is the average debt by generation?

The amount of debt Americans carry also varies depending on their age. Debt levels are typically at their highest in middle age and begin to go down as people near retirement.

Here are average debt amounts broken down by generation, according to Experian.

Gen Z (18 to 23 years old)

The average Gen Z American has $16,043 of consumer debt. Gen Zers have had less time to take out loans and credit cards, so their average debt is the lowest of all adult generations. Because Gen Zers are college age, they mainly owe money in student loans and credit card balances.

Millennials (24 to 39 years old)

The average millennial carries $87,448 in consumer debt. Most millennials have entered the workforce, and many have purchased their first home. The average mortgage balance for a millennial is $237,349.

Gen X (40 to 55 years old)

The average Gen Xer has $140,643 of consumer debt. This age group carries the highest amount of debt—nearly 50 percent more than the average American.

Baby boomers (56 to 74 years old)

Baby boomers are either nearing retirement or have already retired. The average baby boomer has $97,290 of consumer debt. In this age group, debt levels begin to decline.

Silent Generation (age 75 and older)

Most Americans in the Silent Generation are retired. However, they still have an average debt of $41,281.

How does your debt level compare to others in your generation? If you owe more than the average for your age group, or find that your debt is increasing each month, you might want to consider a debt repayment plan.

How can I start paying off my debt?

Many people carry a car loan, mortgage, or some other type of financial aid throughout their lives. But you can speed up the repayment process with some careful planning. Here’s how you can get started paying down your personal debt.

1. Make a list of outstanding debts

To pay down debt, it helps to know how much money you currently owe. You can start by making a list of all your debts. Be sure to include loans, credit card balances, and any money you owe to family and friends.

As you write down each debt, include the most important details: the total outstanding balance, the interest rate, and the minimum monthly payment.

What is an interest rate?

The interest rate is the cost you pay each year to borrow money expressed as a percentage. This is in addition to paying back the original loan amount.

 

Just having this information written down can make you feel more in control of your finances. Now that you know exactly where you stand, you’re ready to create a personalized debt payment plan.

2. Choose a debt payment method

Paying down your debt is much easier when you have a plan. A debt payment plan can motivate you to pay off your debt faster and more strategically.

Here are two popular payment methods to consider.

The avalanche method helps you save the most money while you pay off your debt. With this method, you organize your debts in order of their interest rates. Then you start paying down the debt with the highest interest rate. By paying off this debt first, you’ll save money on interest. Once the first debt is paid off, you can focus on paying the debt with the second-highest interest rate. Continue this method until all debts are paid off.

The snowball method helps you pay off your smaller debts first. With this method, you pay off your debts in order from the smallest balance to the largest balance. By following this method, you’ll get to experience the feeling of success as soon as you cross that first debt off your list. This sense of accomplishment can motivate you to keep going.

3. Make your debt more affordable

When you have debt, you pay interest on every dollar you owe. The higher your interest rates are, the more money you have to pay.

If the interest rates you’re currently paying are higher than you’d like, you may be able to get lower interest rates. Here are two financial tools that can help.

Loan refinancing lets you replace your current loan with a new loan that comes with a new set of conditions and a different interest rate. If you qualify for a lower interest rate, you may be able to pay less interest and get out of debt faster. Refinancing is a popular option for auto loans, mortgages, and personal loans.

Debt consolidation is the process of paying off all your debts with one loan or credit card. Personal loans are a popular tool for debt consolidation because of their fixed interest rates and predictable payments. If you qualify for a low interest rate on your personal loan, you may be able to save money as you pay off your debt.

The methods you choose to pay off your debt are less important than your commitment. Having a plan and sticking to it can help you pay down your debt faster.

Oportun: Affordable lending options that are designed with you in mind

Now that you better understand how to manage debt, you can learn about how Oportun can help you.  If you are looking for affordable credit options, we can help.  Visit Oportun.com to learn about:

  • Personal loans
  • Credit cards
  • Secured personal loans
  • And more

 

Sources

Experian. Average U.S. consumer debt reaches new record in 2020
Investopedia. Consumer debt
Experian. Experian 2020 consumer credit review
Experian. What is the average number of credit cards per U.S. consumer?
Experian. Mortgage debt sees record growth despite pandemic

 

The information in this site, including any third-party content and opinions, is for educational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal, tax, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Oportun product or service to your unique circumstances. Contact your independent financial advisor for advice on your personal situation.

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