Americans rely much more on their credit cards these days, and Gen Z is no expectation. According to McKinsey data, Gen Zers (aged 18 to 25) currently have an average of $2,282 in credit card debt.
But compared to the average American, Gen Z’s debt doesn’t look all that bad. According to Experian, Americans have an average of $6,365 in credit card debt, and the total amount is a record high of $1.08 trillion.
And while there’s a substantial difference between the average credit card debt for Gen Z and the average American, the reasons for their debt are likely the same.
Major costs are more expensive
Americans have struggled to keep up with the rising cost of nearly everything over the past few years, as inflation soared and housing costs rapidly increased. While the latest data shows that inflation is starting to cool, the damage has already been done to many people’s personal finances.
Consider how much these expenses have jumped recently:
- Food costs jumped 9.9% in 2022 and were up 3.7% for most of 2023.
- The average price of a home has jumped 27.7% over the past three years.
- The average car payment is up 28.5% since 2020.
In addition to inflation, soaring interest rates have wreaked havoc on many Americans’ finances. Consider that the average credit card interest rate is 22% right now, compared to 15.5% five years ago and just 12.7% a decade ago.
There are 70 million more credit card accounts open right now than in 2019, indicating that Americans may rely on them more than before to cover everyday expenses.
How to start paying off credit debt
It can feel overwhelming when you first take a look at your debt. But creating a simple strategy for paying it off will help you get on the right track. Here’s how:
Create a debt payoff plan
Download a budgeting app to find expenses you can cut out, then put that extra money toward your credit card debt each month. Different payment strategies, including the debt snowball method, can help you stay focused on putting as much money as possible toward payments.
Consider a balance transfer
If you have a lot of credit card debt and are paying a high interest rate, you may want to consider applying for a balance transfer credit card. These cards often have low introductory interest rates, which help you make more progress toward your debt payoff by keeping your balance from growing thanks to interest. You will have to have a strong credit score to qualify for one of these.
Stop using your credit card
This may be an obvious suggestion, but it’s an important one. You can’t get out of credit card debt if you keep adding more to it. If you have monthly bills automatically tied to your credit card, switch them to be paid from your bank account or debit card instead.
Try to find additional sources of income
I’ve picked up additional freelancing work when I’ve needed extra cash, thanks to the plethora of gig work platforms. While it may not always be possible, finding an additional source of income can go a long way toward helping you pay off debt.
There’s no easy way to tackle credit card debt; paying down your balances takes financial discipline and time. But taking a few steps in the right direction — like budgeting and putting extra money toward debt — will help you make progress on reaching your goal.
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