Are you struggling with debt? If so, you’re not the only one.
GOBankingRates.com recently surveyed nearly 3,000 adults across the U.S. to find out how much debt they have. Specifically, we asked respondents what type of debt — mortgage loan debt, student loan debt, credit card debt and medical debt — is their largest source of current debt and how much they owed for each type.
Nationwide, a majority of respondents (51 percent) said they are not in debt. But, of those who are in debt, the biggest source is mortgage loans, followed by student loans, credit card debt and medical debt. State by state, the results are pretty similar. Read on to find out the biggest source of debt in your state.
Mortgage Loans Are the Biggest Source of Debt in the Majority of States
Overall, mortgage loans are the biggest source of debt among those surveyed by GOBankingRates. About 20 percent listed mortgages as their largest source of debt. And among those who have this type of debt, the median amount owed is $59,500.
Additionally, residents of these 42 states named mortgages as their top source of debt:
- District of Columbia
- Kentucky (tie with student loan debt)
- Mississippi (tie with medical debt)
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota (tie with student loan debt)
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Mortgages appear to be the biggest source of debt regardless of the mortgage size. For example, Indiana, Ohio and Missouri have some of the lowest median monthly mortgage payments in the nation, according to an August study conducted by GOBankingRates. Yet, they’re among the 42 states where residents name mortgage loans as their top source of debt.
Ironically, one of the few states where residents didn’t name mortgage loans as their biggest source of debt — Vermont — is the only state in another GOBankingRates survey where residents said paying their mortgage or rent is their No. 1 cause of financial stress.
Although mortgage loans are the biggest source of debt for most Americans, fewer appear to be struggling to make payments. The number of new foreclosures hit an all-time low between April 1 and June 30, 2016, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s August report. And, the percent of mortgage balances that are delinquent — with a payment that’s at least 90 days past due — has been declining over the years.
7 States Where Student Loans Are the Biggest Source of Debt
Student loans are the second-biggest source of debt among those surveyed by GOBankingRates. Overall, about 13 percent of those surveyed said student loan debt is the top source of debt for them. And of those who have student loan debt, the median debt amount is $9,100.
Here are the seven states where residents listed student loan debt as the most burdensome:
- Kentucky (tie with mortgage loan debt)
- North Dakota (tie with mortgage loan debt)
Of the states where residents said student loan debt is their biggest source of debt in this GOBankingRates survey, Michigan has the highest average student loan debt — $29,450, according to The Institute for College Access & Success, which looked at the average debt among the class of 2014. And among the states where student loan debt is the top source of debt, Montana has the highest percentage of recent college graduates with debt — 67 percent.
Find Out: Is College Worth Student Loan Debt?
For those who will be graduating college with student loan debt, a good way to reduce the amount you have to pay over time is to start making payments before they are due.
“Unless you have a subsidized student loan or a special offer, your interest will start accruing the day you sign the papers,” said Kristina Ellis, author of “How to Graduate Debt-Free.” “Though it’s defined in the terms of your contract with the lender, many students are surprised to realize their $15,000 private loan from freshman year has ballooned to over $20,000 upon graduation.”
So, try to make at least the basic interest payments before you graduate to avoid compounding debt, she added.
If you have federal student loans, you may be able to ease your debt burden by enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan. If your income is low enough, these plans can reduce your monthly payment amount, according to the U.S. Department of Education. You can get more information at StudentAid.ed.gov.
Medical Debt Is the Biggest Source of Debt in Only 3 States
Overall, medical debt is least likely to be the biggest source of debt among those surveyed; about 6 percent of those surveyed said this is their largest source of debt. And among those who have this type of debt, the median amount owed is only $600.
Although 79 percent of survey respondents report having zero medical debt, it’s the top source of debt in more states than credit card debt. And, GOBankingRates’ 2016 Financial Burdens Survey found Americans believe healthcare costs are the most worrying economic issue in the country.
In this particular survey, GOBankingRates found that two of the three states where medical debt is the biggest source of debt are located in the South:
- Mississippi (tie with mortgage loan debt)
The percentage of the population without health insurance in Mississippi might explain why residents in this state say medical debt is their biggest source of debt. At 17.3 percent, the 2015 estimated uninsured rate in Mississippi is well above the national uninsured rate of 11 percent, according to Enroll America, a healthcare enrollment coalition.
Meanwhile, the estimated uninsured rate in Arkansas is 11.2 percent, which is on par with the national uninsured rate. But, the rate in Vermont — 5.4 percent — is well below the national rate.
Still, residents who are insured in these three states might still have trouble footing their medical bills. A Kaiser/New York Times survey found that, in general, 38 percent of insured adults who had problems paying their medical bills in the past year say they or someone else in their household increased their credit card debt to cover the costs. In comparison, only 24 percent of the uninsured did the same.
“Even though you may have health insurance, staying in a hospital — even for one night — depending on your insurance, can put a hole in your wallet,” said Leslie H. Tayne, a financial attorney and author of “Life and Debt.” “Avoid putting these medical expenses on your credit card. Have a backup fund so you always are prepared in case something like this was to happen.”
Only 2 States Report Credit Cards Are the Biggest Source of Debt
This survey found that only roughly 10 percent of Americans view credit card debt as their largest source of debt. And, among those who have credit card debt, the median amount owed is $2,000.
Residents in only these two states said credit card debt is their biggest source of debt:
Interestingly, a whopping 62 percent of survey respondents said they have zero credit card debt. But in an earlier survey, GOBankingRates uncovered that paying off debt is the biggest source of financial stress in most states.
“Americans may be signing up for credit card after card and not reading the fine print, which is causing them to be in deeper debt than they already are,” said Tayne. “Consumers are carrying balances each month on multiple credit cards, and some are even unaware of the high interest rate that comes along with it.”
To get out of debt, the best strategy is “to pay as much more than the minimum payment as possible,” said Bruce McClary, vice president of public relations and external affairs for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. “This clears the balance before interest has much of a chance to grow.”
He also recommended low-interest rate debt consolidation as a way to pay down a balance faster — and save money over time.
Methodology: This GOBankingRates.com survey posed the question, “Of the following, which is the largest source of your current debt?” to 2,780 people with the possible answer choices: 1) mortgage loan debt, 2) credit card debt, 3) student loan debt, 4) medical debt and 5) I am not in debt. Then, respondents were asked to answer the following questions:
- How much mortgage loan debt do you currently have?
- How much credit card debt do you currently have?
- How much student loan debt do you currently have?
- How much medical debt do you currently have?
- How much auto loan debt do you currently have?
Responses were collected through a Google Consumer Survey conducted from Sept.16, 2016, to Sept. 18, 2016, and responses are representative of the U.S. online population. The survey has a 2.6 percent margin of error.