How debt has changed in the past 10 years

by Derek Silva
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How debt has changed in the past 10 years

Household debt in the United States is higher than it’s ever been. As of November 2019, Americans households have a total of $13.95 trillion in debt. That number has been rising every quarter for more than five years and is $1.3 trillion higher than its previous peak in 2008.

What American debt looks like going into 2020

Nationally, mortgage debt makes up the majority of American debt at the end of 2019. Nearly 68% of American debt is in the form of mortgages. Student loan debt accounts for 11% of American debt. Car loans make up more than 9% of debt and credit card debt is at just over 6%. The total amount of debt has also increased for all these types of debt in the past year.

Current debt by age & type

Americans in their 40s have more debt than any other age group, but those in their 50s aren’t far behind. Mortgage debt makes up close to 75% of all debt for people in both of those age groups. Americans in their 30s also have mostly mortgage debt. It comprises 65% of their total debt.

People ages 18 to 29 are the only group for whom mortgage debt isn’t the majority of what they owe. Student loans make up most of the debt for people under age 30, at 37.8% of all their debt.

For older Americans, credit card debt is worth mentioning. Credit card debt is 9.5% of total debt for people age 70 and over. Starting in people’s 30s, credit card debt represents a bigger and bigger portion of total debt every decade. (See what credit card debt looks like in every state.)

Composition of U.S. debt by age in 2019

Ages 18-29 Ages 30-39 Ages 40-49 Ages 50-59 Ages 60-69 Ages 70+
Mortgage debt 35.6% 65.0% 71.7% 72.0% 71.4% 70.4%
Student loan debt 37.8% 16.7% 9.2% 6.4% 4.0% 1.7%
Auto loan debt 17.4% 9.8% 8.8% 8.6% 8.4% 7.9%
Credit card debt 5.9% 5.1% 5.6% 6.5% 7.4% 9.5%
HELOCs 0.2% 0.8% 2.0% 3.4% 5.1% 6.7%
Other debt 3.1% 2.6% 2.8% 3.1% 3.6% 3.8%
Total debt in U.S. $0.97 trillion $2.9 trillion $3.51 trillion $3.26 trillion $2.14 trillion $1.15 trillion

Debt by age, in trillions of dollars

Ages 18-29 Ages 30-39 Ages 40-49 Ages 50-59 Ages 60-69 Ages 70+
Mortgage debt 0.35 1.90 2.51 2.34 1.53 0.81
Student loan debt 0.37 0.49 0.32 0.21 0.09 0.02
Auto loan debt 0.17 0.29 0.31 0.28 0.18 0.09
Credit card debt 0.06 0.15 0.20 0.21 0.16 0.11
HELOCs 0.002 0.02 0.07 0.11 0.11 0.08
Other debt 0.03 0.07 0.10 0.10 0.08 0.04
Total debt 0.97 2.93 3.51 3.26 2.14 1.15

How debt has changed since 2010

Since the start of 2010, total household debt in the U.S. has increased 15% (from $12.12 trillion to $13.95 trillion). The change looks more drastic when you look at how individual types of debt have changed.

Student loan debt has nearly doubled in the past decade. No other type of debt increased by as much as student loans and as we mentioned earlier, it’s Americans in their 20s who are hardest-hit by this student loan debt.

Learn more about how to deal with student loan debt.

Car loans also saw a big increase with debt from auto loans increasing 87% since 2010. Auto debt is spread more evenly across the different generations, with people in their 40s having the most auto debt.

On the other hand, mortgage debt increased less than 7% and the total debt from home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) actually decreased by 43%.

Change in total household debt since 2010, by type of debt

Student Loan Auto Loan Other Credit Card Mortgage HELOC Total
+97.7% +86.6% +17.1% +15.6% +6.8% -43.0% +15.1%

Even with student loan debt skyrocketing in the past 10 years, it’s actually seniors who saw the biggest increase in total debt. Americans age 70 and above have 88% more debt now than they did at the start of 2010. That increase is more than three times more than what any other age group experienced. The next largest increase was for people in their 60s, with 28% more debt than in 2010. Not far behind them is Americans ages 18 to 29. They saw a debt increase of 25.8%.

Increase in total household debt since 2010 by age

Ages 18-29 Ages 30-39 Ages 40-49 Ages 50-59 Ages 60-69 Ages 70+
+25.8% +16.0% +0.2% +7.2% +28.4% +88.3%

Here are nine ways to pay off your debt in 30 days.

Image: H. Armstrong Roberts (Getty)