KEY POINTS

  • Baby boomers had the second highest average amount of debt, at $96,984
  • Millennials, those between the ages 24 to 39, had the third highest average level of debt, at $78,396
  • Millennials saw their debt load swell by 58% since 2015

The average American is carrying more than $90,000 in debt according to a study by CNBC – and that debt load varies significantly by age group.

Looking at 2019 data from credit bureau Experian, CNBC found that the average American has $90,460 of debt, including consumer debt, credit card debt, personal loans, mortgages and student debt, among others.

By age segment: Generation X (those between the ages of 40 and 55) have the highest amount of debt – an average of $135,841. People in that age bracket tend to have high expenses, including mortgages, college tuition for their kids, etc.

Baby boomers (those between the ages 56 to 74) had the second highest average amount of debt – at $96,984. Presumably this group is still paying off their mortgages.

Millennials, those between the ages 24 to 39, had the third highest average level of debt -- $78,396. This segment of the population has been particularly hammered by student loan debt and weak job markets.

The “Silent Generation” – those who are 75 and older and presumably in retirement -- carried $40,925 of debt on average.

At the bottom was Generation Z – those aged between 18 to 23 – who have $9,593 in debt on average and presumably have not begun working yet.

Experian noted that consumers in the two eldest age categories – baby boomers and the silent generation – have seen their debt decrease by at least 7.5% since 2015.

At the same time, millennials saw their debt load swell by 58% since 2015.

While members of the youthful Generation Z cohort have the lowest overall debt balance on average, they also have the hardest time making payments. For example, about 12.24% of Generation Z’s credit card accounts were 30 days or more past due last year.

But it is Generation X members – who were mostly born in the 1970s – that lead most categories of debt.

Generation X has the highest average credit card balance ($8,215); the highest auto loan balance ($21,570); the highest average mortgage balance, ($238,344); the highest amount of student loan debt ($39,981); and the highest average home equity lines of credit ($49,221).

Interestingly, baby boomers have the highest average personal loan balance at $19,253.

Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com, told International Business Times that, thanks to low interest rates, the amount of monthly income that Americans are devoting to debt payments is the lowest in the 40 years the Federal Reserve has tracked it.

“Prior to the pandemic, loan delinquencies were at historic lows, showing that as long as there is a steady paycheck coming in, Americans are managing their debt payments well,” he said. “However, with 25 million Americans currently drawing unemployment compensation, higher delinquencies and defaults in 2021 seem inevitable.”

McBride further said that the type of debt people are carrying is also an important metric.

“Home prices are rising, home equity is growing, and appropriate loan standards are being used, so mortgage debt is not the problem as it was prior to the financial crisis,” he noted. “But the average amount financed on a new car is [now] over $36,000, up from $27,000 just five years ago. Even at low rates, that $500 or $600 monthly payment is a budget-buster.”

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