| November 9, 2016

Which Generation has the Most Credit Card Debt?

Young Gen Xers are the most likely to have debt and hold high balances.

Which generation has the most credit card debt?

When it comes to credit card debt, we all may be in roughly the same boat as other people our age. That’s according to a new study by GoBankingRates.com that finds that young Gen X consumers are the most likely to carry credit card debt and they have the highest balances.

The study broke each generation into old and young, since generations span more than a decade, understanding that old and young members of a generation may be at some significantly different financial life stages.

  • Young Millennials (age 18-24):
    • Median credit card balance: $587
    • 73% report they have no credit card debt; meaning only 27% carry a balance
  • Older Millennials (age 25 to 34):
    • Median credit card balance: $2,000
    • 40% carry a credit card balance
  • Young Gen X (age 35-44):
    • Median credit card balance: $4,000
    • 46% carry balances, but 54% manage debt to keep a net balance of zero
  • Older Gen X (age 45-54):
    • Median credit card balance: $2,000
    • 42% report they carry month-to-month credit card balances
  • Young Baby Boomers (age 55-64):
    • Median credit card balance: $3,000
    • Roughly 33% carry credit card balances
  • Older Baby Boomers and Silent Generation (age 65+):
    • Median credit card balance: $1,600
    • 72% have no credit card debt, while 28% carry balances

“The amount of credit card debt that you can comfortably carry depends on your income and how many other debts you’re carrying at the same time,” explains Gary Herman, President of Consolidated Credit. “With that in mind, it makes sense that people in the prime of their financial lives have the most debt and that average balances increase then decrease over time.”

Essentially, Young Millennials need to have low credit card debt because they have (1) lower entry level income and (2) higher student loan balances to pay off. As young borrowers pay off their student loans and advance in their careers, they have the means to afford more debt without creating budget stress.

By the same token, anyone over the age of 65 is at or near retirement. That means lower fixed income and a higher need to minimize financial risk. Carrying debt at this stage is dangerous, because you usually don’t have the budget flexibility to make adjustments if there’s ever an issue.

“That being said, there’s no financially beneficial reason to carry credit card debt over from month to month regardless of your age,” Herman continues. “Just because you have the means to keep up with the bills, carry credit card debt balances means you’re paying interest charges every month. This drains cash flow that you could be using on other things, like student debt repayment and retirement savings.”

People often believe that carrying at least credit card debt balance over from month to month is necessary to maintain a high credit score. However, that’s not the case.

“The biggest benefit comes from maintaining credit card accounts in good standing with a zero net balance from month to month,” Herman says. “By paying off any charges in full at the end of every month you minimize interest charges and maximize your credit score.”

If credit card debt is holding you back from reaching your financial goals, we can help. Call Consolidated today at or complete an online application to request a free debt analysis from a certified credit counselor.

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