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How Many Americans Cite Housing as Primary Debt Driver?


Only about 11% of Americans have no consumer debt, which encompasses credit card debt and medical bills, according to a survey from Discover. This does not factor in mortgage debt or auto loan debt. Another 10% have less than $1,000. 

While mortgage debt specifically is not counted as “consumer debt,” about 14% of survey respondents said buying a home, leasing a home, or repairing their home was their No. 1 reason for acquiring consumer debt. 

Nearly 50% of Americans carry between $1,000 and $20,000 in consumer debt. 

When asked what was the No. 1 reason for acquiring debt, medical expenses took the lead with 23.5% of survey respondents citing this as their top reason. Student loans were the next highest culprit with 15.3% of respondents saying this was the No. 1 reason for their debt. 

While a majority of Americans carry debt, a large percentage of them report feeling burdened by their debt, according to a recent article in MReport. About 60% of Americans feel burdened by their debt, but only 12.4% said their mortgage debt was their biggest burden, according to a survey from LendingTree. 

Instead of worrying about mortgage debt, which consumers view as contributing to their financial future, consumers tended to worry about credit card debt. 

That’s despite the fact that mortgage debt tends to make up the largest percentage of debt for Americans. This concern may be founded. 

Credit card delinquencies “have steadily risen since 2016, notably among younger borrowers,” said Wilbert Van Der Klaauw, SVP of the New York Fed earlier this month with the release of the New York Fed’s quarterly Household Debt and Credit Report

Almost 14% of survey respondents told Discover they believe they will be debt-free in less than one year, and the majority—nearly 60%—believe they will be out of debt in at most five years. 

The New York Fed reported that household debt has been on the rise for 27 consecutive quarters, rising to $14.15 trillion in Q4 2019. 

However, about 17% of people feel their debt is seemingly hopeless, telling Discover they don’t think they’ll ever get out of debt. 

Mortgage originations rose 42% in Q4 2019, reaching $752 billion, which the New York Fed reported as the highest mortgage loan origination volume reported since Q4 2005. 

About Author: Krista F. Brock

Krista Franks Brock is a professional writer and editor who has covered the mortgage banking and default servicing sectors since 2011. Previously, she served as managing editor of DS News and Southern Distinction, a regional lifestyle publication. Her work has appeared in a variety of print and online publications, including Consumers Digest, Dallas Style and Design, DS News and DSNews.com, MReport and theMReport.com. She holds degrees in journalism and art from the University of Georgia.

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