How Does Consumer Debt Affect Individuals by Age Group?

Consumer Debt

Debt is a problem that affects millions of Americans of all ages and economic status. Regardless of your status, whether you’ve had a stable financial history for years or perhaps you’re a new borrower at 18 years old, there’s a steady stream of debt pitfalls available to everyone of all ages.

There are thousands of debt issuers in America seeking borrowers of all ages and economic status.  However, depending on your age group, different kinds of debt problems are more likely. As such, Americans tend to struggle with different kinds of debts. Here’s a look at how individuals get entangled in overborrowing by their age group and how debt affects Americans over their financial lifetime.

#1. Student Loan (Age 18 – 24)

The cost of attending college has increased drastically over time, which is why most young adults suffer from overwhelming student loans. Many students leave college with at least $25,000 student loan debt which takes years with high interest to pay back. 

This is one of the easiest consumer debts to get trapped in as young adults are constantly pressured to get a degree in order to get a good career. Attending college is great but for those who do not have a choice other than relying on loans, it can be a devastating financial move with long-term consequences. In fact, six months after school, you’ll be left with loans due that have also accrued months or even years of unpaid interest.  As such, by the time you start to pay, your loan balance will be considerably higher.

#2. Credit Card Loans (Age 25 – 34)

This is the most common consumer debt for all ages, but often starts to build with young adults.  Owning a credit card isn’t the issue, it’s the habit of slowly paying back high interest credit cards that presents the true challenge. The average individual debt within this category is generally about $6,000, but it is often coupled with a high-interest rate and multiple credit card accounts.

Given increased access and solicitation through the internet, it’s no surprise that people of this age get caught up with credit card debt. 

People within this age group can feel upwardly mobile but can also be very naive when it comes to overall debt management. As such, their best method of defense should be to avoid more than one or two lines of credit and keep available balances well above outstanding balances. As much as you can, maintain less credit cards and properly manage your debt.

#3. Mortgages and Children (Age 35-55)

The primary source of debt for this age group starts with house purchases and mortgage loans.  While these are generally solid, low-interest loans, homeownership often creates credit card debt. This age group can begin to become subject to increasing costs and flat wages.  They also suffer from the number one cause of financial difficulties throughout America – the cost of raising children.  In this age group, the cost of raising a family along with unseen emergencies, job loss and divorce can combine to create large and unpayable monthly high-interest consumer loan payments.

#4. More Consumer Debt (Ages 55 and Above)

While many people in this age group do reach financial security, it can also be a difficult stage in their financial life.  Although most people in this age group may benefit from decreased child expenses, there are many parents who still need to support grown children and even grandchildren.  Decreased income, retirements, flat income and health expenses can also lead to increased unsecured high-interest consumer borrowing and financial insecurity.


Getting entangled in a debt web is one of the easiest things that can happen to anyone at any age. However, it can be avoided through knowledge and an understanding of the economic pitfalls that endanger financial security during different periods in your lifetime.