Published in: Credit Cards | Feb. 21, 2020

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 borrowing more money as well?

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 typically rising just as fast, or even faster, than their income. As one of the three major credit bureaus that tracks American consumers' financial information, Experian has firsthand insights into 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.

A group of people sitting in a circle of chairs having a social meeting at a restaurant.

Image source: Getty Images

How much do Americans owe on their debts?

I won't keep you in suspense. Here's how much Americans owe, broken down by the type of debt.

Type of Debt

Average Balance

Change From 2018 to 2019

Credit cards

$6,194

3%

Retail cards

$1,155

3%

Mortgages

$203,296

2%

Auto loans

$19,321

2%

Personal loans

$16,259

(1%)

Data source: Experian. Parenthesis indicate a negative change.

To be fair, remember that these are the average balances per borrower. For example, not every American consumer has a mortgage -- in fact, only 36% of American consumers do -- but of those that do, the average balance is $203,296.

With this 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 carry a balance.
  • Mortgages: The number of millennials with a mortgage has increased by 76% in the past five years, so while this group only holds 15% of all mortgages now, they are gradually making up more of the housing market as time goes on. While mortgage debt has risen, delinquencies are low. Since 2010, the percentage of homeowners who are seriously (90-180 days) delinquent on their mortgages has fallen by 85%.
  • Personal loans: While the average personal loan balance was the only type of consumer debt to decline in 2019, it's also important to note that this is the fastest-growing debt category, with the number of personal loan accounts up 11% from 2018.
  • Auto loans: 30% of consumers have auto loans, with fairly equal distribution among different age groups. Interestingly, the average auto loan balance for subprime consumers (FICO® Scores of 300-669) is slightly higher than the overall average.

What to do if your debts are too high

First off, there's no set definition of what is "too much" of any type of debt. One person might find a $30,000 auto loan to be too much, 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 likely easier to handle if the borrower doesn't also have an auto 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 a balance transfer credit card with a 0% intro APR could be a great way to get credit card debt under control.

The bottom line is that the figures here are just the averages. Your debt may be too high for comfort, even if it's significantly less, and there's no time like the present to take steps to get it under control.

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