Young Americans just surpassed a collective financial milestone: U.S. consumers aged 18-29 years old now owe more than $1 trillion in debt. Furthermore, as Forbes reports, the last time this age group owed more than $1 trillion was right before the 2008 financial crisis. This cumulative debt includes a mixture of student loans, mortgages, auto loans and credit card balances.
Of course, each individual within this age group has their own financial outlook. There’s no such thing as a universal experience. But the rising amount of debt held by this age group does warrant a closer look at why it’s occurring and how young Americans can reduce or eliminate their debt before they find themselves buried by it.
Why Do Young Americans Have So Much Debt?
It’s no secret that student loan debt is soaring. Many experts are even going so far as to call it a “crisis.” The cycle goes like this: More Americans are pursuing higher education as the minimum requirements for many jobs require some sort of degree. The cost of tuition for public and private schools is also rising. But consumers don’t only end up paying the cost of enrolling at an institution; they also must pay off the interest accumulated on any loans they take out.
So, not only are many graduates facing the challenge of securing a job—but they also find themselves trying to afford essentials like housing, food and transportation while also juggling their student loans after the grace period. Many degrees unfortunately don’t secure jobs high-paying enough to easily balance all these expenses; it can take years or even decades for consumers to pay off whatever they borrowed to attend college, especially when you consider interest is always accumulating in the background. This explains in part why student loan debt has the highest 90-or-more day delinquency rate of any type of household debt.
But there’s also other debt to factor into the equation: auto loans, rent/mortgage, medical bills and credit card debt. The challenge of balancing multiple types of debt, each with its own repayment terms, in a tough economy understandably leads many young Americans to accrue debt over time just to stay afloat.
Working Toward Debt Elimination—And Why It’s Worth It
Even if your debt isn’t delinquent yet because you’ve kept up with minimum payments due, it’s still building up interest in the background. This means, at best, you’ll pay more over a longer period of time than the original amount you borrowed. At worst, if you do slip into delinquency, you’ll face collection calls and serious damage to your credit—not to mention an ever-growing stack of debts piling up.
How you approach elimination depends on the type of debt you’re carrying and the amount. If your credit score is in OK shape and you’re looking for someone to hold you accountable for repaying your debts over the course of a few years, credit counseling is worth exploring. Working with a credit counselor from a reputable non-profit organization can even help you secure lower interest rates and pay off debts in a streamlined manner.
If you read Freedom Debt Relief reviews and identify with other consumers’ stories—people with major unstructured debt looking for a solution that helps them avoid bankruptcy—then debt settlement may be your best bet. Make sure you carefully vet whatever program you consider for enrollment. Expect to make monthly deposits into a special account you control until you have enough for negotiators to contact your creditors and attempt to settle your debts for less.
There are many ways to get out of debt. But just as each young American is different, each solution has its own set of pros and cons to consider—so do some digging before you commit.