Here’s how much the average American earns and owes now

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The average American’s income is higher than a year ago, but are they also borrowing more money?

The average American’s income is higher than a year ago, but are they also borrowing more money?

Credit reporting company Experian estimates that the average household income in the United States was $79,834 in 2019. The good news is that this is up from $77,762 in 2018, a gain of $2,072 or 2.7%.

The bad news is that Americans’ debts are generally growing as fast, if not faster, than their incomes. As one of the three major credit bureaus that tracks US consumer financial information, Experian has first-hand information on how much we owe. In the company’s 2019 Consumer Credit Review, it revealed the average balance Americans owe on each major type of debt and how it has changed over the past year.

How much do Americans owe on their debts?

I won’t hold you back. Here’s how much Americans owe, broken down by type of debt.

Type of debt

The equilibrium average

Change from 2018 to 2019

Credit card

$6,194

3%

Detail cards

$1,155

3%

Mortgages

$203,296

2%

Car loans

$19,321

2%

Personal loans

$16,259

(1%)

Data source: Experian. Parentheses indicate a negative change.

To be fair, remember these are average balances per borrower. For example, no all The American consumer has a mortgage – in fact, only 36% of American consumers have one – but among those who do, the average balance is $203,296.

With that information in mind, here are some of the key findings and statistics from Experian’s report for each major type of debt:

  • Credit Cards and Retail Debt: 67% of Americans have at least one credit card (62% have a retail store card) and 75% of Americans who have at least one credit card have a balance.
  • Mortgages: The number of millennials with a mortgage has increased by 76% over the past five years. So, even though this group currently only holds 15% of all mortgages, it gradually constitutes a larger share of the housing market over time. While mortgage debt has increased, delinquencies are low. Since 2010, the percentage of homeowners who are seriously (90-180 days) in default on their mortgage has dropped by 85%.
  • Personal loans: Although the average personal loan balance was the only type of consumer debt to decline in 2019, it is also important to note that it is the fastest growing category of debt, the number personal loan accounts increased by 11% compared to 2018.
  • Car loans: 30% of consumers have a car loan, with a fairly even distribution between the different age groups. Interestingly, the average auto loan balance for subprime consumers (FICO® scores of 300 to 669) is slightly higher than the overall average.

What to do if your debts are too high

First, there is no set definition of what is “too much” of any type of debt. One person might find a $30,000 car loan too expensive, while another might be able to comfortably afford it. And it depends on the combination of debts you have – in other words, a large mortgage payment is probably easier to manage if the borrower doesn’t also have a car loan and a pile of credit card bills.

And, the best course of action also depends on the type of debt. A personal loan or balance transfer credit card with a 0% introductory APR could be a great way to get credit card debt under control.

The bottom line is that the numbers here are just averages. Your debt may be too high to be comfortable, even if it’s significantly lower, and there’s no better time than the present to take steps to get it under control.

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