Dave Ramsey is fond of saying that you don’t want to be normal because “normal” is broke. Now, CreditLoan has graphic proof of that in the infographic, “A Lifetime of Debt: The Financial Journey of the Average American.” Comprised of information from several sources, this infographic, which is laid out like the Life board game, shows Americans’ journey into debt. Would you believe that it begins in high school?
Debt Often Begins In High School
By high school, the average American has a department store credit card. While many teens want to be independent and show that they are grown up, is incurring debt the way to do this? I would prefer that my kids show they are grown up by avoiding credit until the end of their college career, but that doesn’t happen typically. In fact, according to the infographic, 84% of college students have credit cards, and the average undergraduate carries a balance of $3,200. Only 2% of college students do NOT have a credit history.
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t earn much money in college. I did have credit cards, and I was “normal” and carried a balance. All I could afford was the minimum payment, which was often just enough to pay the interest for the month. Let the enslavement begin.
Student Loan Debt
The infographic explains that the average undergraduate graduates with $20,000 in student loan debt; if they go on to graduate school, they amass $17,000 more for a total of $37,000 in student loan debt.
Unfortunately, once again I was completely normal. My mom was a widow who had never worked outside the home until my dad died, so she didn’t have any money to pay for my college education. I got the first two years of college free by attending a community college’s honors program, but I amassed $20,000 in student loan debt for my last two years of undergraduate work. I took two years off after that and worked and paid down as much debt as I could before going to graduate school, which is the only reason why I left grad school with “only” a combined total of $22,000 in student loans between undergrad and grad school instead of the “normal” amount of $37,000.
Sadly, I am still paying down my student loan debt, in part because my husband and I thought we could afford our lifestyle when we should have been paying down debt. However, the student loan is my next target on my debt snowball, so I expect it to be gone by this fall. Yeah for giving up a lifetime of normalcy!
Home Loans And Auto Loans
According to the infographic, after students graduate college and move on to adulthood, they continue to amass debt. The average home loan is $240,000 and after 30 years of making payments, the homeowner will have paid a total of $580,000 over the life of the loan. (Suddenly the monthly payment doesn’t seem so affordable. I wonder how many new homeowners take the time to compute exactly how much they will pay over the life of the loan. I am guessing that most blissful believe they are paying down $240,000.)
Most “normal” Americans own two or more cars and take out a car loan of $30,738 for 6 years. Their average interest rate is 7 to 9%. (This infographic was created in 2009, so I am guessing the interest rate should be lower now, but on a loan of more than $30k, you are still paying quite a bit of interest.)
A Lifetime Of Debt And Interest
The most staggering fact of all—over a lifetime, a “normal” American pays out $600,000 in interest for all of these loans they take out over a lifetime.
Paying cash and paying for only what you can afford is considered weird, but it is no wonder “weird” people get ahead in life—they have an extra $600,000 to use or invest that they are not paying out in interest.
Until last year, I was living a very “normal” life. However, last October we swore off credit cards and have paid down nearly $10,000 in debt in 7 months. We are on our way to being “weird” and couldn’t be happier.
How about you? Have you thought about being weird and swearing off debt?
Last Edited: 22nd May 2012