Some blame a lack of financial knowledge for the high levels of debt we see in households across the country. You may have even heard the term “debt crisis” refer to the tens of thousands of dollars of debt the average household owes. Crisis or no crisis, borrowing and debt are a part of life. And, for the most part, debt is unavoidable.
Can you imagine going through your entire life without ever taking on any debt? You would have to pay for your schooling, transportation, housing, and everything else with money you earned and saved up. Unless you were born into a large amount of wealth, this would be exceedingly difficult.
Many people take on debt soon after reaching the age of majority. Whether they buy a car, open up a credit card, or take out student loans, early adulthood is a time when debt offers come from all angles. It requires a degree of self-control and financial knowledge to avoid getting caught in the debt cycle, where you borrow, repay some of what you borrow, only to end up borrowing more. This cycle can last a lifetime.
We’ve created a list of the most shocking debt facts and statistics we could find. These data truly paint a picture of the debt problems many Americans are facing.
1. We have more student debt than ever before
Pew Research reports that around four in ten (37%) of households led by a person under the age of 40 currently have some student loan debt. This is the highest percentage on record. The graduating class of 2014 is also the most indebted class to ever walk the stage. Wall Street Journal reports that “the average Class of 2014 graduate with student-loan debt has to pay back some $33,000, according to an analysis of government data by Mark Kantrowitz, publisher at Edvisors…Even after adjusting for inflation that’s nearly double the amount borrowers had to pay back 20 years ago.” Slightly over 70% of 2014 grads left school with loans and although they are the most indebted grads ever, they won’t be for long as the 2015 class will likely take the reigns next year.
2. We use our credit cards, a lot
Nerd Wallet reports that the average household owes around $7,300 on their credit cards. But, if we look only at households who use credit cards, that amount goes up to an astonishing $15,607. In total, we owe $880.5 billion in credit card debt. We also owe $8.07 trillion in mortgages, $1.12 trillion in student loans, and a total of $11.63 trillion in total debt. To pay this debt off, every man, women, and child in America would need to contribute more than a typical worker’s median annual salary.
3. Uncontrollable amounts of debt can contribute to mental health complications
There is a strong correlation between mental health illnesses, like depression and anxiety, and debt. The Huffington Post reports that a “review of 65 studies, published in the journal Clinical Psychology Review, showed that the likelihood of having a mental health problem is three times higher among people who also have debt, compared with people without debt.”
4. Debt can destroy marriages and relationships
According to the CDC, the marriage rate is 6.8 per 1,000 people and the divorce rate is 3.6 per 1,000, which is surprisingly high. Psychology Today found that couples who disagree about their finances on a weekly basis are 30% more likely to divorce over time than those who disagree about finances only periodically. Debt is also a common cause of arguments, which also contribute to break-ups and divorces.
5. Medical debt plagues millions of Americans
Nerd Wallet found that 56 million Americans under the age of 65 have trouble paying medical bills and 17 million of them will lower their credit ratings as a result. To save money, 25 million Americans don’t take their prescription medications as prescribed (they skip doses and try to stretch them out). A shocking 1.7 million people will end up declaring bankruptcy because of their medical bills.