Household debt is at a record high, and it causes relationship tension for more than 20 percent of Americans across generational lines.
But millennials find themselves adversely affected more than either baby boomers or members of Generation X, as 68 percent of them admit to debt having a negative impact on their life, according to a survey conducted by AICPA.
Nearly half (43 percent) of millennials reported that they worry about their debt, and that worry is causing American millennials to rethink even minor financial decisions. Some 37 percent of millennials agreed that their debt changed the way they handle everyday situations involving money.
Members of older generations are not free from debt-related stress either. While millennials may be most likely to have their lives impacted, 48 percent of baby boomers and 59 percent of Gen Xers reported that their debt also negatively affected their life. They lose less sleep about it than their younger counterparts though, as less than one-fifth of baby boomers said they worry about their debt.
There are lots of Americans thinking about their debt because, well, there are lots of Americans who have debt. According to the survey, 73 percent of the more than 1000 respondents are living with “debt-driven factors.” That’s nearly three quarters of the country who have some sort of debt weighing on them.
Debt hurting relationships
That weight can seriously hamper quality of life. Of the more than 50 percent of respondents who indicated debt negatively affects them, 21 percent say it is causing tension in their relationship. When every dollar spent feels like a crucial financial decision, it is no wonder significant others can be put at odds by their debt.
Sometimes that burden causes people to mislead the ones closest to them. Eleven percent of survey respondents indicated that they’ve not been truthful with family members or close friends about their debt situation. These things likely go hand-in-hand pretty often: Having debt is already uncomfortable, but being lied to about debt is even worse.
The debt that leads to all of these various problems can, and does, come from multiple sources. The most common source of it, according to AICPA, is simply paying the bills. After the everyday expenses come, in order: paying the mortgage, simply not having enough income, car payments, healthcare costs and student loans.
The everyday bills may have been the most often cited debt driver, but the margin between it and other sources was not all that high. While 44 percent of respondents claimed their bills as a source of debt, 41 percent said their mortgage added to the total, while between 23 and 36 percent of respondents picked each of the other options.
With those numbers all adding up to more than 100 percent, it’s obvious that as bad as one form of debt may be, Americans often struggle due to having more than one of these things happening at a time.
That explains why millennials are the most negatively affected by their debt, as they enter adulthood and get hit from all sides with different forms of debt, from not earning enough, to finding ways to afford their transport to and from work, while paying rent and making those student loan payments.
Money can’t buy happiness, but it might be enough to relieve the tension that some folks are feeling. The good news is that while many people are dealing with debt-driven adversity, they still have hope for the future—42 percent of respondents said they believed their debt would be lower in five years, compared to less than half that amount (18 percent) who worried it would grow in that same time.
That positive attitude might end up in many of those people seeing their debt levels go down, as long as its paired with sound financial decision-making, of course. AICPA’s debt management website should be able to help out with the second part.