Debt in America is not a new thing. In many ways, it has grown almost all years, meaning that consumers have more debt now than they did just a few years ago. Understanding the average debt in America may help provide some insight into the ways you may be able to work to reduce what you owe, providing the potential for financial freedom.
What Is the Average Debt in America Per Household?
The average amount of debt per household in the U.S. was $96,371 in 2021, according to a report conducted by Experian. That includes mortgages and vehicle loans. It is an increase of 3.9% over the previous year. The average debt also includes any loans and credit cards a person has. This often lumps student loans into the mix as well.
Another way to consider how much debt Americans have is to consider the amount of overall debt owed by all Americans. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, in 2021, household debt across the county rose to $16.16 trillion. This includes mortgage debt as well as non housing balances. Of that, about $11.39 trillion in household debt, such as mortgage debt.
Overall, reports indicate that 340 million Americans have some type of debt, including mortgage and car loans. The Urban Institute notes that 64 million Americans have at least some credit card debt.
Why is Debt on the Rise in the U.S.?
There are many potential reasons why debt continues to increase. According to the Federal Reserve, a large amount of the debt consumers have is due to an increase in mortgage balances, thanks to the purchase of homes that cost more now than they did just a few years ago. However, it may also be due to the increase in inflation, which has reached a 40 year high in 2022, which means that many consumers are spending a lot more than they did before to maintain the same standards of living.
How Much Student Loan Debt Do Americans Have?
According to a report from Experian, the average consumer student loan was $38,792 in 2020. That increased by 1.8% in 2021 to $39,487. According to White House data, the average student who leaves college with an undergraduate degree program has almost $25,000 in debt.
One of the reasons student loan debt did not increase as rapidly from 2020 to 2021 as it did in prior years is that the U.S. Federal Government put a pause on federal student loan repayment and interest rates. That, along with the hold on collections activity on those student loans, created a bit of a break for consumers on increasing student loan debt. However, for those individuals that did not pay down their debt during that break, it continues to be a component of their ongoing overall debt.
Why Is Student Loan Debt So High in the U.S.?
The cost of higher education continues to rise. According to White House information, the cost of both a four year private and a four year public school has tripled from 1980 through 2022. While many students may have benefited from Pell Grants, which used to cover as much as 80% of those costs, that type of financial aid only covers about a third of the cost of higher education now. Financial aid may be available to those who qualify. That means more students are paying out of pocket or through third party loans to cover their overall costs.
Will Student Loan Debt Forgiveness Help with Debt?
The Student Debt Relief Plan provides loan forgiveness for qualified borrowers of up to $20,000. The program may help some families to see relief from debt up to the amount of debt forgiven. The amount may differ for each student.
How Many People Have Student Loans?
The White House notes that there are more than 45 million student loan borrowers in the U.S. That may account for both those who just left school and those who have been out of school for a long time. The reports also indicate that, of those who have student loans, about 16% of them are in default. That includes about a third of all senior citizens who still have student loan debt that they have not repaid.
Consider a few key figures:
- 45 million people have student loans in the U.S.
- About 16% of all student loan borrowers are in default
- About 1/3 of all senior citizens still carry student loan debt
- The typical Black borrower still owes 95% of their student loans 25 years after they graduate
- About 66% of people who have a Pell Grant come from a family that earned under $30,000 per year.
What Type of Debt Do Americans Owe?
There is a wide range of debt types that Americans owe. They commonly include mortgage loans, credit card debt, student loans, and vehicle debts. That is a combination of secured and unsecured debt that’s impacting monthly budgets for many of today’s consumers.
Take a look at how much debt the average consumer had in 2021, according to the Experian data:
- Mortgage Debt: $220,380
- Home equity loans or lines of credit: $39,556
- Student loans: $39,487
- Vehicle loans and leases: $20,987
- Credit card debt: $5,221
- Personal loans: $17,064
Americans owe a wide range of debt types, and having various forms of debt is not in itself a bad thing. However, those with mounting debt could struggle to continue to make payments.
How Much Debt do People Have Compared to Income?
Using just a dollar amount to represent the amount of debt a household has does not necessarily mean it is unaffordable. Those with a higher debt to income ratio, though, may have more of a struggle to combat. According to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, In 2021, the overall debt to annual income ratio was 145%, which means that consumers had 145% more debt than they had income.
What Is Considered a Normal Level of Debt for Households?
The optimal situation is that consumers do not carry debt but instead pay off what they borrow each month. However, that is not always the case. There is no specific feature considered normal debt levels. However, the Federal Housing Association recommends having debt, including mortgage payments, under 43% of total income.
As noted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, lenders set their own expectations for debt to income ratios. Some may have a significantly higher threshold than others. In general, the lower this figure is, the more funds a consumer has to manage their monthly expenses.
Average Debt by Income Percentile
There are many ways to consider how much debt Americans have. One way to consider this is to look at how much debt families have compared to their income. The Survey of Consumer Finances provides some insight into this. It looks at the amount of debt based on the net worth percentile. It found that the amount of debt a person has increases based on their net worth.
Here is a look at how much debt people have based on their income:
- Those who have less than 25% of their net worth in debt, the average debt was $66,940.
- For those who have between 25% and 49.9% of their net worth in debt, the average debt was $89,070.
- For those who have between 50% and 74.9% of their net worth in debt, their average debt was $132,520.
- For those who have been 75% and 89.9% of their net worth in debt, the average debt was $412,650.
Which States Have the Lowest Debt and the Highest Debt?
There are some states with lower household debt than others. Debt amounts range widely throughout the U.S. The states with the least amount of debt include:
- West Virginia
Some students have a higher amount of debt than others. The states with the highest amount of debt include:
- District of Columbia
Are There Americans That Live Debt Free?
Without a doubt, there are many people throughout the U.S. that do not carry debt. That means they do not have credit card debt or even a mortgage. The number of people who do not have debt changes each year. However, the Experian study indicated that under 25% of all American homes are living without debt. That does not include people who only have a mortgage and no other debt.
What to Do If You Need Help with Debt
Many people who have debt struggle to make payments each month on what they owe. This is financially taxing and may be hard to overcome. There may be some resources to help you.
Student loan forgiveness
If you have student loan debt, learn more about the numerous student loan forgiveness programs that are available. You may do that at the Department of Education website. It may be possible to earn debt forgiveness, discharge, or cancellation of your debts.
Student loan defaults
If you have debt that is in default from student loans, The Federal Student Aid department at the U.S. Department of Education offers insight into what your legal options may be.
Student loan forbearance
It may also be beneficial to consider student loan forbearance. This may allow you to stop making payments for a short period of time. You may learn more about forbearance at the Department of Education website as well.