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How Does Your Debt Compare to Other People Your Age?

By Christy Bieber - Dec 11, 2020 at 9:00AM

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Do you owe more or less than the average for your age group?

Four stacks of coins with increasing height and blocks on the top of each stack that spell out DEBT.

Image source: Getty Images.

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Debt can be expensive and affect every aspect of your financial life. Ideally, you should avoid taking on unnecessary debt. Though there are a few exceptions such as a mortgage loan or other debt that helps to improve your net worth. 

That said, it's not always realistic to avoid debt entirely. In fact, many people owe money on credit cards. And whether you're one of them or not, it can be helpful to see what others in your age group owe so you can assess how your debt compares. 

How much do people owe by age group? 

If you want to get an idea of how your credit card debt stacks up to your peers, we've got you covered. According to recent research from The Ascent, these are the 2019 mean and median revolving credit card balances by age:

  • 35 and under: Mean debt of $3,660 and median debt of $1,900. 
  • 35 to 44: Mean debt of $5,991 and median debt of $2,700.
  • 45 to 54: Mean debt of $7,672 and median debt of $3,200.
  • 55 to 64: Mean debt of $6,884 and median debt of $3,000.
  • 65 to 75: Mean debt of $7,033 and median debt of $2,850.
  • Over 75: Mean debt of $8,078 and median debt of $2,700. 

Overall, among all age groups, the mean was $6,271 and the median revolving balance was $2,700. In most cases, there's not a huge difference between the amount owed by people of different ages. However, the mean balance tends to be much lower for younger Americans and very high for the 75 plus group.

Does it matter if you owe more or less than your peers?

It can be interesting to compare your debt balance to others in your age group, and can give you an idea of whether your borrowing habits are "normal" or not. Ultimately, however, if you want to know whether you're being responsible with debt, comparing yourself to others isn't the right metric to use.

For most people, the best amount of credit card debt to have is $0. But if you have to borrow, try to use a 0% APR credit card so you can avoid paying interest for a limited period. And you'll always want to have a plan for repaying credit card debt as quickly as possible as the standard interest rate on cards is very high. 

If you can build up an emergency fund, it will help you cover unexpected expenses without needing to borrow. And a budget will make it easier to spend less than you earn. If you do have to borrow for big purchases, consider alternatives such as a personal loan which can come with a much lower interest rate. 

Try to be responsible with your credit cards and pay them in full each month. That way you can use cards to help build credit, earn rewards, and get some of your money back. It's easy to slip into credit card debt, but if you can avoid it, you'll save a fortune in interest charges. And in the long run, you'll be better able to accomplish key financial goals.

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