Americans continue to pile on debt

The U.S. economy may be on the upswing, but many Americans are still piling up debt faster than savings.

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According to Northwestern Mutual’s 2018 Planning and Progress Study, average personal debt climbed higher than $38,000. Americans were also more likely to accrue between $5,000 and $25,000 worth of debt than savings last year – with 33% having added an amount within that range to their debt levels versus 17 percent who saved.

While 20 percent of people allocate half of their income toward debt repayment, one in 10 Americans surveyed said they expected to be in debt for the rest of their lives.

Only 23 percent of people claimed to carry no debt, down five percentage points from 2017.

The main sources of debt were credit cards and mortgages, which each made up an average of 25 percent of an individual’s debt. While student loans compromised 6 percent of the average debt total, for millennials, it made up 28 percent.

Meanwhile, dining and nightlife topped the list of discretionary items consumers were spending money on, at 15 percent of overall expenditures. Hobbies, clothing and personal care all tied for second, at 13 percent each, followed by leisure travel.

Yet, despite rising levels of debt, 56 percent of respondents said debt had little impact on their ability to achieve their financial security.

While GDP growth surpassed 4 percent last quarter, wage growth has remained sluggish – a lagging indicator that has even puzzled the Federal Reserve. Average hourly wages rose 2.7 percent in July, year-over-year.

The San Francisco Fed also recently predicted that the 2007-2008 financial crisis would result in a lifetime income loss of about $70,000 for the average American.