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Percentage of consumers in debt down, amount of debt up

The United States Census Bureau issued a report indicating that a lower percentage of Americans carried debt in 2011 than in 2000. However, the consumers that do have debt owed more in 2011 than their 2000 counterparts. In 2000, 74 percent of Americans carried some debt. In 2011, that number was reduced to 69 percent. The average debt owed in 2000, adjusted for inflation, was $50,971. By 2011, that amount had increased nearly 40 percent to $70,000.

The percentage of Americans that have credit card debt has decreased by 13 percent since 2001. The report showed that unsecured debt is more common among consumers when the head of the household is under the age of 45. Student loan debt and uninsured medical expenses, along with other forms of unsecured debt, have increased by eight percent. 

For all Americans under the age of 66, the percentage of people with debt decreased. The group with the highest percentage of debt increase was senior citizens, who now carry a median debt of $26,000. In 2000, 41 percent of senior citizens owed money. That number increased to 44 percent in 2011. However, the group that had the largest dollar amount increase in debt was among households where the head fell between the ages of 35 to 44 years old. The median debt for consumers in those households was $108,000.

Unsecured debt can be a large burden on consumers. Discharging unsecured credit card debt in bankruptcy may provide relief to some persons who find themselves unable to make monthly payments. A New Jersey bankruptcy attorney may be able to advise on whether bankruptcy is the right solution.

Source: USA Today, “More Americans debt-free, but the rest owe more,” Tim Mullaney, March 21, 2013 

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