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3-Year Changes to Each Generation’s Debt

As each generation moves into different stages of their personal and economic lives, the amounts and types of debt they carry shifts, too. We compared the debts of members of the four adult generations — millennials, Gen Xers, baby boomers and silents — between March 2016 and March 2019 to see what’s changed.

Specifically, we calculated the changes in the average balance of each major debt category — personal loans, credit cards, auto loans, student loans and mortgages — and the change in the percentage of each generation that carries each type of debt.

Key findings

Millennials saw the greatest spike in overall debt. Their total balances rose by an average of $16,714 — almost 29% — between 2016 and 2019.

Gen Xers now have the highest average debt burden of any generation. They increased their average debt burdens by about 10%, or $11,898, between 2016 and 2019, thanks to steady dollar increases across all debt categories.

Older generations — boomers and silents — are winding down their debt, thanks to decreases in average mortgage balances. However, they’ve increased their average debt across all other categories.

Boomers decreased their debt burdens by 7%, or $10,424. Members of the silent generation dropped their overall debt by $9,486, or 8%.

Comparing each generation’s debt distribution

In comparison to members of the silent and millennial generations, baby boomers and Gen Xers are carrying the highest amounts of debt. However, in both 2016 and 2019, each of the four adult generations’ combined debts were at least $50,000.

But while baby boomers and silents have managed to pay down their debts by at least $9,000, both Gen Xers and millennials experienced an increase in recent years. This increase in debt for millennials has occurred as they age, perhaps beginning to have families and wage increases that improve their monthly cash flow. A higher income may have allowed them to cover the cost of nicer cars and other expenses that will ultimately increase the amount of debt owed.

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