by Christy Bieber | July 31, 2019
Personal loans have become an increasingly popular type of financing. More than 10% of U.S. adults had an outstanding personal loan as of the fourth quarter of 2018.
Are you one of the millions of Americans who already has a personal loan? Or are you thinking about becoming one by taking out a personal loan in 2019? Either way, it's helpful to see how your loan balance compares with your peers.
Personal loans are different from other types of loans like car loans and mortgages.
When you get a car loan or mortgage, it has to be used for a specific purpose -- to buy a vehicle or a house or to pay for school. Mortgages and car loans typically have to be secured by the house or vehicle, which means lenders have an ownership interest in the home or car. And they could take the property by foreclosing or repossessing if you can't pay.
With a personal loan, on the other hand, you can borrow for virtually any purpose you'd like. Most personal loans are unsecured, so there's no collateral guaranteeing the loan. Unlike credit cards, personal loans are for a fixed sum of money that you receive up front. And, also unlike credit cards, you agree on a payment schedule with the lender to repay the loan over a set time period with steady monthly payments.
Looking for a personal loan but don't know where to start? The Ascent's picks of the best personal loans help you demystify the offers out there so you can pick the best one for your needs.
The average personal loan balance in 2018 was $15,143. But some age groups have more debt than others. The table below shows the average personal loan balances from ages 18 to 90.
|Age||Average Personal Loan Balance|
Data source: Experian
As you can see, debt balances tend to go up as people age. But they do decline once borrowers enter the later years of their life.
Baby boomers had the highest average personal loan balance of $19,403. Here's how other generations stack up:
Older people are more likely to have high personal loan balances. They're also more likely to have personal loan debt in the first place. In fact, people aged 45 to 52 average the highest number of loans per person. Within this age group, borrowers had 1.1 personal loans each.
There's a number of reasons why personal loan balances go up as people age. Increasing financial obligations that come with time include college costs, mortgages, and credit card balances built up over the years.
If your personal loan balance is above average, paying off what you owe eats up more of your cash. And having more debt means you'll pay more interest than others with loans at comparable rates.
Want to pay off debt faster? Check out our shortlist of the best personal loans for debt consolidation and cut your monthly payment with a lower rate.
Personal loans tend to have lower interest rates than credit cards, which makes them a good option for consolidating debt or borrowing for essential expenses. But you still don't want a debt balance that's too high. The more interest you pay, and the more you owe, the less cash you have for accomplishing other financial goals.
To reduce your obligations and free up cash, work to pay down your personal loan balance ASAP. You shouldn't do this if you have debt at higher rates to pay down first, and you shouldn't compromise other goals like saving for retirement. But getting serious about debt repayment is still worth your time.
Everyone's financial situation is different. Assess your own financial goals to decide if working on paying down your personal loan early makes good sense for you.
And if you're feeling overwhelmed, don't worry. You're not alone. Americans of all ages have a lot of personal loan debt.
We've vetted the market to bring you our shortlist of the best personal loan providers. Whether you're looking to pay off debt faster by slashing your interest rate or needing some extra money to tackle a big purchase, these best-in-class picks can help you reach your financial goals. Click here to get the full rundown on our top picks.
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