If it feels like you have been taking on increasingly more debt in recent months, it may be comforting to know you’re not imagining things. According to data from the New York Federal Reserve, total household debt surged in 2019 to surpass $14 trillion for the first time.
The last time we saw annual growth that large was 2007, right before the last recession. Let’s take a look at some other key insights from the report and what they reveal about our current personal finance landscape in America.
Key Takeaways on Collective American Household Debt
Since debt is a broad term encompassing many different categories, it’s helpful to break this information down further by classification.
Here are the annual changes in household debt by category:
– Mortgage debt: +$433 billion
– Home equity line of credit: -$22 billion
– Student debt: +$51 billion
– Auto debt: +$57 billion
– Credit card debt: +$57 billion
– Other: +$25 billion
– Total debt: +$601 billion
Another insight worth noting is delinquencies in certain categories rose last year —namely credit cards, auto debt and student loans — “with young borrowers seeing the biggest increase,” according to Reuters. Economists believe this increase in delinquencies among borrowers in their 20s and 30s “could be related to high levels of student loan debt” because student loans often make it more difficult for consumers to afford their other bills.
Tips for Managing Your Debt
Personal debt in America may be on the rise, but you don’t have to sit back and accept the fact you’re going to sink deeper and deeper into debt as time goes on. This report is a great reminder to check in on your debts and see what you can do to reduce and eliminate them.
Paying more than the minimum amount due will go a long way toward chipping away at your debt rather than allowing interest to keep growing in the background. Consider this example from Bankrate: You have a $5,000 credit card balance with 18.9 percent interest. Making only the $200 minimum payment each month, it will take you 11 years and five months to pay the
balance — and you’ll end up paying $8,109 including interest. The more you can exceed your minimum each month, the faster you’ll get out of debt and the less it’ll cost you in the long run.
But what if you’re one of the many Americans struggling to keep up with even minimum payments — or already facing delinquencies due to missed payments? Well, then it’s time to get a plan.
Key Debt Elimination Strategies
As Freedom Debt Relief reviews attest, debt settlement is one potential solution for major unsecured debts like credit cards and medical bills. The idea here is to negotiate with creditors; they may agree to accept a percentage of your original balances in exchange for timely, guaranteed payment.
Another potential solution is a debt management plan (DMP), under which you’ll start making one monthly payment to a credit counseling agency instead of making payments to your creditors directly. The agency will try to get your creditors to agree to lessen the interest and waive the fees on your balances in exchange for you sticking with the DMP for three to give years.
Many Americans have taken out debt consolidation loans from a bank or online lender to cover the rest of their high-interest debts. There is some inherent risk in taking on new debt to solve old debt, but this strategy may be worthwhile if you can qualify for a low interest rate on a loan.
Household debt is on the rise across the country, but it still behooves borrowers to get a plan to keep their personal debt in check.