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Record High Debt... What Does It Mean?

, by Rob Kaufman

Back before the Great Recession, Americans were on a spending spree. From mortgages to car loans to credit cards, it was like no one had a care in the world when it came to debt.

Then we had the Financial Crisis. Most people were more careful with their credit cards and worked more at saving than spending. Well, that's changed again. Americans' debt hit a high of $13 trillion dollars. That's $280 billion more than the record set before the Great Recession.

How is this happening... and why? Let's try to break it down.

The Breakdown of Debt by Age Group

The Federal Reserve conducted a Survey of Consumer Finances. This survey allowed them to discover a lot about Americans' debt - like how much and what type of debt they had.

Below shows the average amount of debt owed within different age groups:

  • Age 34 and Younger: $67,000

  • 35 - 44: $133,100

  • 45 - 54: $134,600

  • 55 - 64: $ 108,300

  • 65 - 74: $66,000

  • 75 and Older: $34,000

So which group are you in? And what does it mean?

As you can see, the age brackets with the highest debt are the ones in which people have children. They're purchasing larger homes, buying cars for their children and also probably helping to pay for college. It's also a time in life when people feel more established in their careers. This means they can ask for promotions and raises which can lead to greater earnings.

Now, check out the 34 and younger age group compared to the 65 - 74 age group. Pretty close, right? You might think it's because they have the same kind of debt. That is not the case at all. Most of the younger age group's debt is education debt. As a matter of fact, the average millennial household carries $14,800 in student loans.

The 65 - 74 age group's debt is primarily real estate-related for "non-primary" residences. This is because they have outstanding loans for vacation homes or investment properties. Comparing those two age groups highlights the huge difference as to why these two categories carry debt.

As is usually the case, even in times of lower American debt, those in the 75 and older category owe the least amount of money. Right now their average debt is $34,000 and is typically tied to a mortgage. This low amount of debt for older adults is a good thing. However, the trend shows it might be changing.

Economists are concerned that younger people are getting into debt faster and paying it off slower - a path to a lower credit score. It's also the opposite of what previous generations have done. When they reach the 65 and over age category, the debt picture could look a lot different than it does for the people in that age group today. It's something the younger generations (and their parents) need to keep a close eye on. It could mean the difference between a comfortable retirement and a difficult one.

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Rob Kaufman

Rob is a writer... of blogs, books and business. His financial investment experience combined with a long background in marketing credit protection services provides a source of information that helps fill the gaps on one's journey toward financial well-being. His goal is simple: The more people he can help, the better.