Millennials are sinking under the weight of their debts, adding a record $3.8 trillion to the pile last quarter. Here’s what’s driving that — plus 3 tips to get your head above water

In news that will come as no surprise to their boomer parents, millennials in their 30s are digging themselves deeper and deeper into debt.

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And it’s not just due to their long-abiding love for avocado toast and bougie coffee — although both of these things have certainly become more expensive lately, thanks to inflation.

Their demographic alone amassed nearly $4 trillion in debt in the fourth quarter of 2022, according to the Wall Street Journal's analysis of Federal Reserve Bank of New York data. This marks a 27% rise from late 2019 — the biggest jump of any age group — and it’s the fastest they’ve ever accumulated debt since the 2008 financial crisis.

The generational wealth gap is widening for these 30-somethings, and here’s why the occasional splurge at Starbucks isn’t to blame.

Debt rising for millennials in their 30s at a record paceHousehold debt hit $16.90 trillion last quarter, as consumers grappled with rising inflation and interest rates.

Millennials in their 30s have added over $3.8 trillion in debt to their accounts — and are missing their credit card and auto loan payments at startling rates as well, according to the New York Fed.

And when you factor in the fact that housing affordability is at its lowest level in history, these young(ish) adults face an additional hurdle to building wealth.

“We are seeing a ‘credit gap’ emerge in the sense that younger, less-affluent borrowers are coming under financial pressure from higher living costs and inflation outpacing their income gains,” Silvio Tavares, chief executive of VantageScore, told The Wall Street Journal.

“We aren’t seeing that among older and more affluent borrowers.”

Mortgage billsMillennials may be in their prime homebuying years — but on top of the affordability crisis, they’re also currently contending with mortgage rates close to 7%.

Across all age groups in the survey, mortgage debt makes up the biggest share of outstanding balances — with that number rising by nearly $1 trillion last year, according to the New York Fed.

Although now may not seem like the best time to refinance your home loan, rates are expected to fall later in the year — so you’ll want to keep an eye out for the chance to slash your monthly expenses or the lifetime cost of your loan.

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Credit cardsBorrowers in their 30s are struggling with the highest credit card delinquency rates, according to the New York Fed — surpassing pre-pandemic norms now. That’s a massive shift from the peak pandemic times, when many consumers used all that cash they saved not dining out, traveling or commuting to work to pay down their debt.

When you don’t pay your credit card bill on time, you risk harming your credit score and adding up on interest and late fees — exacerbating your existing debt and making it more difficult to pay off.

If you’re juggling multiple lines of credit at a time and forgetting what’s due when, it might be helpful to consolidate them into a single loan, so you’ve just got one bill to keep track of each month.

Auto loansAside from drivers in their 20s, this age group is also missing the most auto loan payments, says the New York Fed. Millennials as a whole currently make up the largest demographic of car buyers in the U.S.

Before buying a new set of wheels, make sure you’ve done the math and budgeted accordingly, and stay away from predatory loan rates. With a strong credit score, you could land a rate of between 6% to 8%.

But the best way to ensure you save on your car-related expenses is to shop around for the best rate on insurance — close to half of American motorists saw their premiums spike up in 2022.

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This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.
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