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  • Writer's pictureRob Winkler

The Average American's Debt Revealed: A Look at Debt Balances Across Age Groups

In the pursuit of financial stability and achieving life goals, debt has become a ubiquitous aspect of the American lifestyle. Borrowing money has become essential for pursuing higher education, buying a car for daily commutes, and securing a place to call home. However, debt also comes with inherent risks and costs, including interest payments and fees, and requires diligent and timely repayments to maintain a good credit score. Unfortunately, many consumers make common mistakes while managing their credit, leading to long-term financial implications.

In an effort to shed light on American borrowing habits, Experian, a prominent credit bureau, has analyzed 2019 data to provide insights into the average debt balances at different stages of life, categorizing them by total balance and type.

According to the data, the average debt held by Americans stands at a staggering $90,460, encompassing various consumer debt products like credit cards, personal loans, mortgages, and student loans.

Debt Balances by Age Group:

  1. Gen Z (ages 18 to 23): The youngest age group holds the lowest overall debt balance, averaging $9,593. However, this cohort struggles the most to make timely payments, with approximately 12.24% of Gen Z's credit card accounts being 30 days or more past due in 2019. This could potentially impact their credit score and future borrowing opportunities.

  2. Millennials (ages 24 to 39): In the past five years leading up to 2019, millennials have experienced the most substantial increase in debt, witnessing a surge of 58%. During this period, the average millennial's total debt soared from $49,722 in 2015 to $78,396 in 2019. Factors such as student loans, credit card usage, and housing expenses likely contribute to this significant increase.

  3. Gen X (ages 40 to 55): Gen X holds the highest average debt balance across various categories, except for personal loans. The average total debt for this age group amounts to $135,841. While Gen Xers have higher income levels, their substantial financial responsibilities, including mortgages, auto loans, and supporting families, contribute to their higher debt burden.

  4. Baby Boomers (ages 56 to 74): Baby boomers have demonstrated responsible financial management, with their debt decreasing by approximately 7.5% since 2015. The average debt balance for this age group is $96,984, reflecting prudent financial decisions and reduced borrowing as they near retirement.

  5. Silent Generation (ages 75 and above): The oldest age category has also experienced a noteworthy reduction in debt, with an overall decline of about 7.7% since 2015. Their average debt balance stands at $40,925, showing a conservative approach to borrowing and financial management.

Breakdown of Debt by Type:

  • Credit Cards: Among all age groups, Gen X carries the highest credit card balance, with an average of $8,215. This is possibly due to a combination of higher income levels and greater credit card usage.

  • Auto Loans: Once again, Gen X leads this category with an average auto loan balance of $21,570. As this generation juggles family responsibilities and professional commitments, owning a vehicle for daily transportation remains a necessity.

  • Mortgage Loans: Gen X has the highest average mortgage balance at $238,344, closely followed by millennials at $224,500. High housing costs and the desire for homeownership contribute to these substantial debt figures.

  • Personal Loans: Surprisingly, baby boomers carry the highest average personal loan balance at $19,253, while Gen Z has the lowest at $4,526. Baby boomers may be using personal loans to support their lifestyle during retirement or handle unexpected expenses.

  • Student Loans: Gen X bears the highest burden of student loan debt, with an average of $39,981. This indicates that older individuals are still grappling with student loan payments, possibly for their children or for their own career advancement.

  • HELOC (Home Equity Lines of Credit): Once again, Gen X tops this category, with an average HELOC balance of $49,221. Homeowners in this age group may be using these lines of credit to finance various needs or investments.

Understanding these debt trends is crucial for individuals to make informed financial decisions. Keeping track of debt payments is essential for maintaining a good credit score, ensuring access to better financial products, and securing lower interest rates in the future.

To better assess their credit profile, individuals are encouraged to obtain their free credit reports from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax and sign up for their free credit monitoring service. The Federal Trade Commission recommends obtaining your free report at By staying informed about their financial standing, Americans can take control of their debt and pave the way for a more secure financial future.

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