Average Debt By Age & Generation in 2021

Average Debt By Age And Generation
GUIDE
Erica Sandberg
By: Erica Sandberg
Updated: March 24, 2021
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Borrowing money, whether with a credit card or an installment loan, enables consumers to do all kinds of things, from making safe and profitable transactions with cards embedded with rewards to getting out of jams and purchasing cars, homes, electronics, and appliances. Borrowing helps people send their children to private schools and pursue higher education. For entrepreneurs, it enables them to launch, operate, and grow a business.

Of course, the downside is that it can lead to overwhelming debt and delinquencies.

So, who are all these borrowers, and how much do they owe by their age and generation?

The Greatest Generation | The Silent Generation |
Boomers | Gen X | Gen Y | Gen Z | Gen Alpha

The Greatest Generation: Current Age 94 to 120

People in The Greatest Generation were born between the years 1901 and 1927.

There isn’t a large amount of data describing this generation’s current debt load, but the consumer credit reporting agency Experian shows the following credit card balances based on 2019 data:

The Greatest Generation Credit Card Debt

The Greatest Generation exceeds the age of 100 but the data ends at the age of 99.

Debt Attitudes From Boom to Bust

People of this generation lived through the Roaring Twenties when money was fluid and borrowing was easy, and then through the Great Depression when 9,000 banks went belly up in the 1930s.

As consumer purchasing power declined and hardships intensified, people in The Greatest Generation lost so much trust in the banking system that the Emergency Banking Act of 1933 was passed to stabilize and restore confidence.

The Silent Generation: Current Age 76 to 93

People in the Silent Generation were born between the years 1928 and 1945. Much more information about their debt load is available:

  • Total credit card debt: Overall, this generation carries an average of $4,613 in total credit card debt per person, which is the third-highest amount among five generations (Generation Z, Generation Y/Millennials, Generation X, Baby Boomers, and the Silent Generation), according to Shift Processing.
  • Retail credit card debt: On average, their retail credit card debt is $1,558, according to Experian’s 2020 State of Credit report.
  • Mortgage debt: The Silent Generation holds an average mortgage debt of $159,517, according to Experian.
  • Total non-mortgage loan debt: They owe an average non-mortgage debt of $12,869, according to Experian.

The Silent Generation’s average credit card debt, based on exact age, is:

The Silent Generation Credit Card Debt

In this generation, the younger the consumer, the higher the credit card debt.

Increasing Debt Among The Silent Generation and Older

Although people of this generation are often on a fixed income, they seem to be taking on more obligations, with payments and interest eroding the money they saved to live on.

The share of people age 75 or older who lead a household and carry debt jumped to 51.4% in 2019, up from 41.3% in 2013 and 31.2% in 2007, according to an Employee Benefit Research Institute study published in 2020.

Baby Boomers: Current Age 57 to 75

People who fit into the baby boomer generation were born between the years 1946 and 1964. More information about their debt load — including student loan and auto loan debt — is available for this generation.

  • Total credit card debt: This generation carries an average of $7,550 in total credit card debt per person, the second-highest amount among five generations, according to Shift Processing.
  • Retail credit card debt: On average, their retail credit card debt is $2,100, according to Experian’s 2020 State of Credit report.
  • Mortgage debt: Baby boomers hold an average mortgage debt of $159,517, according to Experian.
  • Total non-mortgage loan debt: They owe an average non-mortgage debt of $25,812, according to Experian.
  • Student loan debt: The federal student loan average balance per borrower for people 62 and older (so baby boomers and older) is $37,739.13, according to the 2020 U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid report. Forbes reports that this is likely due to Parents PLUS loans secured for their children.
  • Auto loan debt: Baby boomers who carry an auto loan balance owe an average of $16,850, according to LendingTree’s Q3 data for 2020.

Baby boomers’ average credit card debt by exact age is:

Baby Boomers Credit Card Debt

As is true with the Silent Generation, the average credit card debt for baby boomers lessens with age.

Increasing Debt Among Baby Boomers

This generation, too, is seeing an uptick in borrowing. In the 65-to-74 age group, 70% carried debt in 2019, up from 66.4% in 2013 and 65.2% in 2007, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Generation X: Current Age 41 to 56

People in Generation X were born between 1965 and 1980. Even more information about their debt load begins to emerge for this generation, including student loan and auto loan debt.

  • Total credit card debt: This generation carries an average of $7,750 in total credit card debt per person, the highest among five generations, according to Shift Processing.
  • Retail credit card debt: On average, their retail credit card debt is $2,353, according to Experian.
  • Mortgage debt: Generation X holds an average mortgage debt of $245,127, according to Experian.
  • Total non-mortgage loan debt: They owe an average non-mortgage debt of $32,878, according to Experian.
  • Student loan debt: The federal student loan average balance per borrower for people who are 50 to 61 (roughly late Gen Xers) is $42,290.32, according to the 2020 Q3 Federal Student Aid report.
  • Auto loan debt: On average, people in Generation X who carry a car loan balance owe $19,223, according to LendingTree.

Gen X’s average credit card debt by exact age, is:

Gen X Credit Card Debt

This is the generation during which credit card debt begins to shift and increases with age.

High Debt is Impacting Saving For Retirement

People who fit within this age group are typically those who aggressively set cash aside for their retirement years. However, a Schwab Retirement Plan Services survey of 401(k) plan participants discovered that 42% of Generation Xers are more focused on debt repayment than saving for retirement.

Millennials (Generation Y): Current Age 24 to 40

People who fit in the millennial generation (also called Generation Y) were born between the years 1981 and 1997.

  • Total credit card debt: This generation carries an average of $4,315 in credit card debt per person, the fourth-highest amount among five generations, according to Shift Processing.
  • Retail credit card debt: On average, their retail credit card debt is $1,871, according to Experian.
  • Mortgage debt: Millennials hold an average mortgage debt of $232,372, according to Experian.
  • Total non-mortgage loan debt: They owe an average non-mortgage debt of $27,251, according to Experian.
  • Student loan debt: The federal student loan average balance per borrower for people ages 35 to 49 (late millennials to early baby boomers) is $42,373.23. People ages 25 to 34 (early to mid-millennials) owe an average of $33,817.56, according to the Federal Student Aid report.
  • Auto loan debt: Millennials who carry a car loan balance owe an average of $16,658, according to LendingTree.

Millennials’ average credit card debt by exact age is:

Millennials Credit Card Debt

Similar to Gen X, millennial’s average credit card debt increases with age.

College Debt Woes

Millennials are especially concerned about college costs because they’re burdened with about two-thirds of it, according to a 2019 TD Ameritrade survey. The survey found that 73% of Americans in this age group either chose or would choose a less-expensive college to avoid debt.

Generation Z: Current Age 11 to 23

People who fit into Generation Z were born between the years 1998 and 2010.

As to be expected, people who are under the age of 18 are not typically included in debt surveys and reports because, as minors, they cannot enter contracts for credit cards and loans. However, there is data for this generation, typically starting when they reach adulthood in the eyes of the law.

  • Total credit card debt: Generation Z carries an average of $2,047 in total credit card debt per person, the lowest among five generations, according to Shift Processing.
  • Retail credit card debt: On average, their retail credit card debt is $1,124, according to Experian.
  • Mortgage debt: Gen Z holds an average mortgage debt of $172,561, according to Experian.
  • Total non-mortgage loan debt: They owe an average non-mortgage debt of $10,942, according to Experian.
  • Student loan debt: The federal student loan average balance per borrower for people who are 24 and younger is $14,807.69, according to the Federal Student Aid report.
  • Auto loan debt: Generation Z borrowers who carry a car loan balance owe an average of $14.620, according to LendingTree.

Gen Z’s average credit card debt by exact age is:

Generation Z Credit Card Debt

No debt information has been reported for people who are under the age of 20.

College Debt Changes

Changes are emerging for those in this age group who are planning for a college education.

According to the TD Ameritrade survey, 46% of Generation Z respondents said they would take online classes, 36% said they would attend a community college before moving on to a four-year college, and 31% said they would take a gap year between high school and college to earn money to help pay for college before enrolling.

Generation Alpha: Current Age 0 to 10

And now we come to the future: people born between the years 2011 and 2025, or Generation Alpha. Of course, babies and children have no debt of their own, though their parents and grandparents — and perhaps even their great grandparents — most likely do.

Will this generation have the same needs and desires to borrow money? At this stage, nobody knows.