Smart Borrower Blog

Household Debt Hits Record High $14 Trillion

Feb 19th, 2020 @ 3:17 PM by Amber Nelson

Americans now owe a total of $14.15 trillion in household debt, according to the Federal Reserve, the highest level ever recorded.

Household debt grew by $601 billion in 2019, at the fastest pace since 2007, right before the financial crisis.

“Mortgage originations, including refinances, increased significantly in the final quarter of 2019, with auto loan originations also remaining at the brisk pace seen throughout the year,” said New York Fed senior vice president Wilbert Van Der Klaauw in a statement.

New mortgage loans accounted for $752 billion of household debt in the 2019 fourth quarter, the biggest quarterly jump in 14 years. The increase was mostly due to a surge in refinance loans as mortgage interest rates neared record lows.

Student loan debt increased $10 billion to a total of $1.51 trillion by the end of the fourth quarter.

Credit card debt rose by $46 billion in the fourth quarter, up to a new record-high of $930 billion. Economists said the rise was greater than normal for the holiday season.

Unfortunately, delinquencies have been rising as well. “The data also show that transitions into delinquency among credit card borrowers have steadily risen since 2016, notably among younger borrowers,” Van Der Klaauw added. The overall credit card delinquency rate – accounts late by 60 days or more – rose to 5.32% in the fourth quarter, up from 5.16%. Among those aged 18 to 29, the rate is 9.36%, 76% higher than all other groups.

Delinquencies are also rising among car loan debt and student loans. Both mortgages and home equity loans are seeing decreases in late payment though.

Interestingly, even as household debt has hit a new high, the Fed reported that average household debt as a percentage of disposable personal income has actually reached the lowest point – 9.69% – since records began in 1980.

About Amber Nelson
Amber Nelson is a seasoned mortgage industry writer and a regular contributor to and

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