Independent of mortgages, American debt is on the rise, according to a new report by Northwestern Mutual.
The report found that a little more than half of Americans cited debt reduction as their top 2018 financial priority. That might have to do with the fact that, according to Northwestern Mutual, average personal debt (exclusive of home mortgages and among those with some debt) is $38,000 this year; and that compares to compared to just over $37,000 in 2017.
The push to reduce debt might also have to do with some other statistics found in Northwestern Mutual's study. For example, twice as many Americans (33 percent) are in debt between $5,000 and $25,000 than having anything similar in personal savings (17 percent).
Add to that, fewer people this year say they don't have any debt—23 percent now, compared to 27 percent a year ago—and 20 percent of people say they allot half of all their income to paying off their bills. A further 10 percent said they believe they'll stay in debt for their entire lives.
Knowing these numbers, however, doesn't seem to be dissuading personal spending, said Emily Holbrook, director of planning, Northwestern Mutual.
"Despite recognizing that debt means dangerous waters, Americans are jumping in with both feet and struggling to stay afloat," she said.
So what's causing all this debt? This year, according to the report, it's credit cards, which tied mortgages as the leading source of debt. Credit card debt leaped from 19 to 25 percent of a person's debt since last year.
Student loans are another huge piece of the debt picture, and that's truer the younger you go. Overall, debt from educational loans hit 6 percent this year, but that number is 28 percent for those between 18 and 24 years old.
“The cycle of 'buy and borrow' continued this year,” the report stated. “After covering off on basic necessities, Americans allocated nearly equal amounts of their monthly income to debt repayment and discretionary expenses.”
Those averages ran 36 and 37 percent, respectively.