Say what you will about our attention spans, but hold your tongue when it comes to young people’s approach to borrowing money. Generation Y, Millennials — whatever you want to call us — have debt levels far below the national average, according to a new infographic released by Experian, the credit reporting agency. This may be a function of life cycle, to be sure, but it may also be an indication that we really do things differently.
Americans are in debt by an average of $78,030 according to Experian, and Generation Y (aged 19-29) carry an average of $34,765 — 55.45% below the national average. The bulk of this debt is tied up in student loans and auto loans. As a result of having a lot of debt and little credit history, Generation Y has a low average credit score: 672 on the VantageScore scale, which translates to a “D.” The so-called Greatest Generation (66 and up) have an average VantageScore of 829, by contrast, a low “B.”
“D’s get degrees” is the old underachiever’s saying, and perhaps that’s important to keep in mind when looking at Gen Y’s credit scores and debt levels. Faced with skyrocketing college prices and an economy that rewards college graduates more than in times past, Millenials have continued to raise levels of educational attainment in the United States despite increasing costs. They’ve financed this decision with student loan debt that would have been unimaginable for their parents’ generation. Even adjusting for inflation, the cost of a four year college doubled in the three decades between 1977 and 2007 — both public and private.
The other chunk of Gen Y’s debt comes from auto loans. The high burden of rising gas prices aside, this is a smart investment for young people. Baby boomers and Gen Xers are both saddled down by massive mortgage debts, while the Greatest Generation has paid theirs down for the most part. Generation Y isn’t yet tied to that many mortgages, even if we are tied up in auto debt. At least auto debt offers mobility; mortgages offer the opposite. That’s good for us.
Mobility and education will both be key assets in a high-tech ‘ideas’ economy, at least according to prognosticators like Richard Florida, demographer and author of “The Great Reset.” Gen Y has plenty of both to spare. And if our debt is concentrated in education and mobility, we look well-positioned for success in this economy…once it gets going again.
Check out the infographic below: