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Millennials Struggle the Most with Debt Management, Experian Finds
Monday, December 2, 2013 7:00 AM

According to a new study by Experian, Millennials are facing the biggest challenges when it comes to credit and how they are managing their debt. With the lowest number of bankcards (1.57) of all of the generations and a low total debt of $2,682 on those cards compared with other generations, one would assume that they are managing their debt wisely, but with high utilization as compared to their individual credit card limits, average debt of $23,332 and high incidences of late payments, it seems this generation is not entering this phase of life with positive credit behavior, which attributes to their low average credit score of 628.

The study provides an in-depth analysis of four generations — the Greatest Generation (ages 66-plus), Baby Boomers (ages 47 to 65), Generation X (ages 30 to 46) and Millennials (ages 19 to 29) — featuring their credit scores, the number of credit cards they have, how much they are spending on those cards and the occurrence of late payments. Additionally, credit scores were analyzed in Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) to provide the 10 highest and 10 lowest credit scores in each generation across the nation.

The study shows that nationally, the average debt in the United States is $27,887, the average number of bankcards is 2.19, the average balance on those bankcards is $4,501, the average revolving utilization ratio is 30 percent, average incidence of late payments is 0.43 and the average VantageScore® is 681 based on a range from 300-850.

Greatest Generation

  • With an average credit score of 735, this generation not only has the best score, but also has the lowest average debt, low bankcard balances and lowest utilization, which means that with the few bankcards they have, they aren’t relying on them heavily, are making payments on time and may be paying those bills in full each month.
  • They have the lowest average debt amount of $16,768 in the city of Bowling Green, Ky., which is 39.9 percent less than the national average.
  • When analyzing the best credit scores in MSAs throughout country, the top 10 scores range from 753 to 757 and all are attributed to this generation, with the Greatest Generation residents of Mankato, Minn., holding the top score (757) nationally. The lowest score for this generation belongs to the residents of Laredo, Texas, with a score of 692.

Baby Boomers

  • With the most bankcards of all the generations (2.66), this generation relies heavily on those cards, racking up the highest balances of all the generations. Even with the high balances, this group has an average utilization percentage and low incidence of late payments. They are managing their debts well and have maintained a higher-than- average credit score of 700.
  • Baby Boomers in New York City have the most credit cards with an average of 3.28, which is 49.8 percent higher than the national average.
  • When looking at all of Baby Boomers’ credit scores across the U.S., the Boomers in Mankato have the best average credit score of 743 and the Boomers in Greenwood, Miss., have the lowest average score of 641.

Generation X

  • This group has an average debt amount of $30,039 which is 7.7 percent higher than the national average and is the highest of all the generations. Not only is their debt high, but it seems they are using their cards much more and may not be paying those debts off or on time as they have the highest occurrence of late payments (0.60) that has ultimately resulted in their average credit score of 653, which is 28 points lower than the national average.
  • Gen X residents in Fairbanks, Alaska have the highest average debt amount in the country, with an average of $36,150, and the highest utilization rate of 47 percent.
  • The highest credit scores for Gen X are in Minneapolis, Minn., with an average of 690 and the lowest belongs to the residents of Greenwood at an average of 641.

Millennials

  • As mentioned earlier, this group has the lowest average credit scores, is over-utilizing its bankcards and is beginning to develop bad credit habits, such as paying bills late.
  • The Millennials with the highest credit scores are in Charlottesville, Va., with an average score of 668, which even as their best credit score, is still 13 points lower than the national average. The lowest scores are in Greenwood at 558.
  • In Eureka, Calif., Millennials have the lowest average debt of their generation with only $18,751.