Most Americans Are in Debt: Here’s How Much We Owe
Money + Markets

Most Americans Are in Debt: Here’s How Much We Owe

Vadym Drobot

Financial planners often lament that Americans aren’t saving enough for the future, but one big reason for the shortfall is that high debt loads are eating up a large part of our incomes.

A new study from Northwest Mutual finds that nearly three-quarters of Americans are in debt, with nearly half owing at least $25,000, excluding mortgages. The average debt load is $37,000, excluding mortgages, and more than 10 percent of survey respondents said they owe more than $100,000.

Related: 5 Alarming Facts About America’s $1.3 Trillion Student Debt

Debt is a serious problem for many consumers. Among those who have debt, 45 percent spend up to half their monthly income servicing debt, and 14 percent believe they’ll be in debt for the rest of their lives. Four in 10 said debt was a high or moderate source of anxiety.

“Building financial security while saddled with high debt is like running a race with a weight around your ankle,” Rebekah Barsch, Northwest Mutual’s vice president of planning, said in a statement.

Mortgages, held by 29 percent of Americans, represent the biggest source of debt, followed by credit card debt, held by 19 percent. Just 7 percent of those surveyed had student loans, but that level rose to 23 percent among Millennials.

In one bright spot in the report, 27 percent of those surveyed said that they had no debt at all, up from 22 percent last year, and 15 percent of Americans owe only on a mortgage.

The stress that accompanies debt can be all encompassing. A January report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta found that people’s mortality rates rose by 5 percent if they suddenly fell behind on their debt payments.

The online survey of more than 2,100 American adults was conducted by Harris Poll in February 2017.