When it comes to debt in America, many people think about the national debt, which sits around $23 trillion. However, even more powerful is the number of individual American people in debt. The United States consumer debt has reached nearly $14 trillion on its own, more than half the national debt. As if that isn’t mind-blowing enough, here are 25 even more startling facts about debt in America.
1. The average American household has $16K in credit card debt.
Seriously! Read that again: The average American household has $16,091 in credit card debt alone. That isn’t including auto loans, mortgages, or any other kind of debt they may hold. Single people hold around $5,437 in credit card debt, on average.
2. People vastly underestimate how much they owe.
Nerdwallet compared the actual amount owed from credit card companies to the amount people thought they owed and – surprise, surprise – there was a HUGE difference. According to the study, there was a $415 billion difference between what people thought they owed and what was actually reported by lenders.
3. The average credit card will take nearly 18 years to pay off.
A family who is carrying the national average of $16,091 in credit card debt at a 12.41% APR may find it takes longer than they’d think to pay their debts off. According to this Bankrate calculator, it may very well take you 18 years to pay that amount off if you’re only making the minimum payments.
4. Medical debt has the biggest mental impact on Americans.
It has been proven debt adds to your stress levels and, in many cases, is directly linked to depression. Depending on the type of debt you have, these feelings can worsen.
According to The Motley Fool, only 64% of people with medical debt express satisfaction with their current lives. Compared to individuals with other types of debt, it seems owing medical bills have the biggest mental impact.
5. Millennials have the lowest average credit card debt.
People pick at millennials for a lot of things, but credit card debt can’t be one of them. Overall, millennials have the lowest average credit card balance. About 56.7% of millennials hold a credit card balance, compared to 67.6% of Gen Xers, and 65.6% of baby boomers. The overall balances held on the accounts are lower as well. Millennials’ average account balance sits at about $5,453, while Generation X and baby boomers hold balances around $,6,627 and $6,800, respectively.
6. Some people have more debt than savings.
Seriously! About 22% of Americans have more credit card debt than savings. As you know, without an emergency fund, you are setting yourself up for financial disaster. Nearly a quarter of Americans are in that boat.
7. There are more payday loan stores than McDonald’s.
It may surprise you to find out that there are actually more payday loan stores than Mickey D’s in the U.S. That means there are more than 14,350 payday loan storefronts in the country. Here’s why that is a bad thing…
Payday loan lenders are predatory lenders who typically charge an insane APR of 400%. They are meant to be short-term loans but most borrowers (80%) wind up rolling the loan over or reborrowing within 30 days, perpetuating a vicious debt cycle.
8. Students pay 70% more to go to school.
Ten years ago, students were paying 70% less than they are now for a college education. On average, American college students are paying about $34,000 per year and 5% of borrowers owe more than $100,000 in student loans.
9. Our national debt raises millions per hour.
According to CBS News, in January 1791, our total national debt was $75 million. Now, the national debt count increases by more than that each and every hour and by around $3.8 billion per day.
10. Couples wait to talk about debt.
The average American couple waits 10 months to talk about finances and debt. Considering this is typically also after meeting their family, spending your first holiday together, and probably the first “I love you,” that seems like quite a while. Additionally, about 25% of Americans have lied to their partner about having debt (crazy, right?).
11. Car loan delinquencies are on the rise.
In the U.S., auto loan delinquencies have been on the rise for a few years (up 21% from 2012). Altogether, Americans owe about $1 trillion in auto loans alone (an average of about $18,500 per borrower). About 1.4% of these borrowers are 60 days or more behind on their payments.
12. More than 10% of student loan borrowers are behind on payments.
Over one in 10 student loan borrowers are 90 days or more behind on their payments. Individuals most likely to fall behind on student loan payments tend to hold the highest amounts of student debt or come from low-income areas.
13. About 46% of Americans have outstanding credit card debt.
On top of nearly half of Americans having a credit card balance, 60% said they had the same balance (or more) than the previous year. This means that most Americans are carrying a credit card balance all the time.
14. Alaskans hold the most credit card debt.
It may surprise you to find out that Alaskans hold the most credit card debt in America. Residents of Alaska hold an average of $8,515 in CC debt. The other leading states included Connecticut ($7,258), Maryland ($7,043), New Jersey ($7,151), and Virginia.
15. When you get your credit card can impact the amount of debt you accrue.
Studies have found individuals who get their first credit card between the ages of 21 and 24 are more likely to accrue more debt. On average, they carry around $6,461 in credit card debt. Individuals who get a credit card between the ages of 18 and 20 carry an average of $6,050. Those who received their first credit card before the age of 18 seemed to fair better, with an average balance just over $5,500. However, the age group who did best were those who got their first card after they turned 25. These individuals only hold an average of $4,234.
16. Student loans aren’t the only student debt.
About 20% of college students say they hold a credit card balance of $2,500 or more for education-related expenses. That is on top of whatever they’ve borrowed in terms of student loans. In many cases, students are using credit cards to pay for housing, books, food, and other items.
17. Men carry more debt than women.
Overall, American men hold more debt than women. They hold an average of $7,407 in debt, while women hold closer to $5,245. That is about 22% less than their male counterparts. However, women owe more on student loans in total.
18. More than 5 million borrowers in default.
When it comes to student debt in America, did you know that more than 5 million borrowers are in default on their loans? This means that 5 million borrowers have gone 270 days or more without making a payment towards their student loans.
19. Debt is ruining marriages.
In America, the marriage rate sits around 6.8 per 1,000 people. The divorce rate is more than half that at 3.6 per 1,000. A huge reason for the increased divorce rate in recent years is because of the amount of debt Americans are holding. Couples who fight on a weekly basis about their finances are 30% more likely to divorce.
20. Americans pay $1,300 in interest every year.
The average American household pays about $1,300 in credit card interest every year. Lower-income households who hold credit card debt may find themselves putting 3% or more of their annual earnings towards interest fees.
21. Bankruptcies are resurging.
In 2005, bankruptcies hit an all-time high. One in every 55 households were filing for bankruptcy that year (more 2 million bankruptcy cases were filed). The majority of these were filed by consumers and not businesses. Rates are showing signs of resurgence in the months and years to come.
22. 80% of American households are in debt.
That’s right – eight out of 10 households in the U.S. are in debt. Some of this is “good debt,” such as mortgages. However, 30% of these households also hold credit card debt and 21% hold student loan debt, not to mention auto loans. Total household debt hovers around $67,000.
23. People expect to die in debt.
It has become increasingly common for people to die with debt to their name. Around 21% of Americans say they expect to still be in debt until the day they die. People are more likely to feel like this they older they get.
24. Americans are $13.86 trillion in debt.
As mentioned in the opening paragraph, Americans are nearly $14 trillion in consumer debt. This means when you add up how much the American people owe on their cars, credit cards, loans, mortgages, student loans, and other lines of credit it equates to $13.86 trillion. That’s pretty crazy!
25. $412 billion of that is delinquent.
Of that nearly $14 trillion in consumer debt, around $412 billion of it is significantly past due or delinquent. Around 5% ($607 billion) of American debt is delinquent (30 days past due) with $412 billion of it be seriously overdue (90 days or more).
Final Thoughts About Debt in America
So, how do we break this debt cycle? The best answer I can provide is education. If more people are better educated earlier in life about personal finance, money management, and debt they will be better equipped to deal with it as adults.
Instead of opening up credit card accounts for emergencies, they should be educated on the importance of an emergency fund. Additionally, many people may save more and put more down on their home than they normally would or even start planning for their retirement earlier once they don’t rely on debt culture to maintain their lives.
The best way to defeat debt in America is to educate people on how to avoid it completely.
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Amanda is an editor and writer. She has a passion for sharing information that helps people and communities to better themselves in some way. In addition to writing online, she also freelances for local newspapers in her hometown of Charlotte, NC.