It isn’t surprising or new information that Generation X has higher debt loads than other generations. Gen X — aged roughly 36-51 — often have mortgages, children, parents to take care of, and student loan debt.
But Gen X is facing more financial pressures than other generations did when they went through the same lifestage, says NerdWallet’s Kimberly Palmer.
This is reflected in a survey from Lightstream, the online lending division of SunTrust Bank. Almost 25% of Gen X-ers it surveyed say it’s “nearly impossible” to pay off significant debt.
“Gen X is at the most expensive time of their life,” Palmer explained. “Even though mortgages and student debt might not be included [in Gen X debt load surveys], it still explains the pressure and why they’re turning to credit cards.”
“That explains the spike. Credit cards are the one thing — it’s the debt that goes up and down a lot depending on a person’s needs. It’s the safety net that they turn to,” she said.
According to the report, which surveyed more than 2,000 people in the U.S., 80% of Gen X has debt. Millennials are the next most likely group to have debt — 75% are carrying a debt load. Just under 70% of baby boomers have debt.
According to 2017 statistics from credit reporting agency Experian, the report found that Gen X is carrying roughly $30,000 of debt on average — excluding mortgages. That’s compared to baby boomers who have around $27,000 and millennials who carry nearly $23,000 of debt. Gen Z, typically considered young adults aged 22 and younger, have the least amount of debt at some $7,000.
Gen X is at their peak earning years, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be worried about their financial health.
“There is definitely cause for concern looking at Gen X finances as a whole,” Palmer said. “The takeaway is to motivate them to pay off debt especially the high-interest-rate debt. Take some motivation to pay it off because there are steps to pay that debt off faster.”
Gen X has options to pay off debt, but according to the report, half have never considered refinancing their debt through a debt consolidation loan. Palmer recommends prioritizing paying off debt with high interest rates first.
“Given that interest rates are expected to rise it might make sense to consolidate to a personal loan where you’re paying one set monthly payment,” Palmer said. Transferring credit card debt to an introductory credit card with 0% APR is another suggestion.
But, she warns, this route is not for everyone: “That’s good for people who know they can pay it off in 12-18 months.”
Kristin Myers is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.