Are Millennials Ahead of Gen X in Terms of Handling Debt?

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To the surprise, and perhaps chagrin, of millennial-haters everywhere, millennials aren’t the worst generation at handling debt. It’s not Gen Zers either, but give it time.

It’s Gen X—a.k.a. the “Forgotten Generation”—who’s at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to debt.

But as with most money conversations, there’s some nuance to it. Gen Xers could revert to their angsty teenage days and blame their parents. Or they could take it out on their costly kids, which will only put them deeper in debt when they’re paying for therapy for the kiddos.

Regardless of how and why you’re accumulating debt, coming up with a debt repayment plan can be a good step to take, especially if you’re feeling completely overwhelmed. A loan repayment calculator can help you formulate a plan to determine when you’ll be debt-free and see how much you’ll save on interest—a good tip for any generation.

Gen X marks the debt spot

According to a recent GOBankingRates survey, more than 86% of Gen Xers said they had some debt, compared with about 79% of millennials. Gen X also had the highest percentage of respondents with more than $60,000 in debt at over 19%, while over 10% of millennials said they have that much debt.

Of course, just having debt isn’t a great representation of how someone handles debt. Gen Xers are more likely to be homeowners and carry an average mortgage debt of $245,127, according to Experian, so it makes sense that they’d have more debt in that respect.

With millennials now the most educated generation, you might expect that they’d lead the way in student loan debt. But according to the survey, almost 44% of Gen Xers took on at least $10,000 in student loan debt, compared with 38% of millennials.

In a rich man’s world

Gen X may have more debt than other generations, but as the wealthiest generation it also has the most money to pay down that debt. The Forgotten Generation eclipsed Baby Boomers as the richest generation (guess that’s why so many of them voted for former reality television personality and Florida man Donald Trump) in late 2020, according to Federal Reserve data.

The share of household net worth among Gen X reached 26.9%, just edging out Boomers at 26.8%, per the Fed.

Age isn’t just a number when it comes to debt

Gen Xers currently are between 41 and 56 years old, while millennials are 25 to 40. Gen Xers have had more time to get themselves into debt. They also experienced both the 2008 financial crisis and coronavirus pandemic as full-blown adults. The youngest millennials weren’t even in high school yet during the Great Recession, and many were still in college or just entering the job market.

Gen Xers are in a tough spot, as many of them still are raising children while simultaneously taking care of their aging parents—both of which can be costly now that everybody’s in therapy.

By Casey Musarra

Casey Musarra is a personal finance writer with over a decade of writing experience and a credit score hovering near 800. She has written several hundred articles on topics ranging from taxes to debt-free living. Previous bylines include newsday.com and philly.com.

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