45% Of Americans Carry At Least $25,000 In Debt

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If you owe creditors less than $5,000 (not including a mortgage) you’re in a rather small group of Americans with minimal debt. According to a new survey, nearly half the country owes at least $25,000 — and spends as much as half of their monthly income paying down their debt.

These stats come from a new Harris survey [PDF] commissioned by Northwest Mutual, which found that nearly three-quarters of Americans are struggling with debt.

More precisely, 47% of consumers are carrying at least $25,000 in debt. The average amount of debt — excluding mortgages — for all borrowers is $37,000. On the high end of debts, nearly one in 10 borrowers said they have outstanding balances of $100,000.

According to the report, consumers’ debts are comprised by a variety of sources with 29% of debt coming from mortgages, 19% from credit cards, and 7% from education loans. However, it should be noted that for millennials, 23% of borrowers said they have outstanding student loans.

When asked about how debt impacted their lives, most consumers reported that it was a significant source of stress and pressure. For instance, four in 10 consumers said debt had a “substantial” or “moderate” impact on their financial well-being, while the same number considered debt to be a “high” or “moderate” source of anxiety.

Despite these feelings, when given the choice how to spend an extra $2,000, 60% of consumers said they wouldn’t use it to pay down such obligations.

In fact, the report found that the lure of spending remains strong for those in debt. After covering necessities, respondents said 40% of their monthly income goes toward discretionary spending on entertainment, leisure travel, hobbies, etc.

When asked what financial pitfalls they are prone to, one-quarter of survey participants flagged “excessive/frivolous” spending as their downfall.

“While giving into temptation can feel good in the short-term, it often contributes to an ongoing cycle of buy and borrow that can become hard to escape,” Rebekah Barsch, vice president of planning, Northwestern Mutual, said in a statement.

That’s a sentiment many consumers agree with, according to the report.

Of those in debt, about 36% said they expect to continue being in the red for six to 20 years, while 14% said they expect to be in debt for the rest of their lives.

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