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A Foolish Take: Here's How Much Debt the Average U.S. Household Owes

Leo Sun, The Motley Fool

The average American household carries $137,063 in debt, according to the Federal Reserve's latest numbers. Yet the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the median household income was just $59,039 last year, suggesting that many Americans are living beyond their means.

Here's how much debt the average U.S. household owes in credit cards, auto loans, student loans, and mortgages.

A chart comparing the average US household debt by categories.

Data sources: NerdWallet and Federal Reserve. Chart by author.

Those numbers are unlikely to shrink anytime soon, according to NerdWallet. That's because the cost of living in the U.S. rose 30% over the past 13 years, yet household incomes only grew 28%. As a result, more Americans are using credit cards to cover basic needs like food and clothing.

Medical expenses have grown 57% since 2003, while food and housing costs climbed 36% and 32%, respectively. Those surging basic expenses could widen the inequality gap in America, as a quarter of Americans make less than $10 per hour.

On the bright side, education costs rose 26% during that period, and growth in student loan balances has slowed, so the picture could be improving for financially disciplined millennials.

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