Almost half of Americans have anxiety over debt

More people are grappling with the physical and mental toll caused by financial stress.

By Karen D’Souza / The Mercury News

Being buried by mountains of debt can make you feel sick. Forty-five percent of Americans said that their debt makes them feel anxious at least once a month, according to Northwestern Mutual’s 2019 Planning and Progress Study, and 20% said it makes them physically ill at least once a month.

Amid mounting fears of recession, more people are grappling with the physical and mental toll caused by financial stress. The study also showed that 15% of Americans think they will be in debt for the rest of their lives and 35% feel guilty about debt they are carrying. Adults now shoulder an average of $29,800 in personal debt, the report showed. It should be noted that there has been an improvement over last year’s debt loads, which reached the crushing level of $38,000 in personal debt, but experts are still ringing the alarm bell.

“The road to financial security is long, even in the best of circumstances,” Emily Holbrook, senior director of planning at Northwestern Mutual, said in a release. “By carrying high levels of personal debt that road gets even longer, often requiring all kinds of detours and other twists and turns. The fact that there’s been some year-over-year improvement in debt levels is good, but the numbers still remain worryingly high.”

The generation with the most reported personal debt was Gen X, citing personal debt at $36,000. Baby Boomers chalked up $28,600 while millennials tallied up $27,900 in debt. Gen Z had a mere $14,700.

This data tracks with recent reports from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York which show that consumer debt is now well above where it was during the last housing crisis. The leading sources of debt are mortgages and credit cards, according to the Fed. Car loans and student loans also play a role.

“Our data, along with national numbers, show that people continue to struggle with finding the right balance between spending now versus saving for later,” said Holbrook. “But it’s important to understand the impact that spiraling debt can have on a financial plan. There are steps people can take to get control of their debt. It might start with loan consolidation and a budget, then move to a longer-term plan that includes guardrails to help people stay on track. The most important part is to take action. It’s often those first few steps that can be the hardest and most important.”

Credit card debt has reached $868 billion in the United States, and delinquencies are on the rise, the report noted

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