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A woman looks worried while making an online credit card purchase.

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Credit card debt in the U.S. reached an all-time high at more than $1 trillion in the last quarter of 2023, according to a recent report from TransUnion. And although Generation X holds the largest percentage of credit card debt (33.8%), millennials had the most credit card account originations last year. Concerningly, millennials also have the most credit card delinquencies, according to a report from CNBC’s Sharon Epperson on “Squawk on the Street.”

“Millennials have the largest share of credit card delinquencies; those borrowers who are newly late on their payments now exceed 2019 levels before the COVID-19 pandemic,” Epperson said. “All other generations are at or near their 2019 averages.”

Auto loans, student loan debt, and relatively high credit card balances all contribute to millennial financial struggles, but other factors also come into play.

Still Recovering from Great Recession

Millennials entered the workforce during the 2008 Great Recession, which means they didn’t experience the workplace stability Boomers enjoyed, may have had a hard time finding a job or may have been laid off shortly after starting their career.

In addition to opening new credit accounts to pay for life during and after the pandemic, they might be paying off older debt.

Student Loan Debt

Millennials, like generations before, were taught a college education was the path to a solid career and a stable financial future. While the Great Recession made it harder to find jobs out of college, pricey student loan debt also put millennials at a disadvantage as they started their adult life.

In 2023, millennials held roughly 30% of all student loan debt — less than GenX at nearly 57%, but more than Gen Z or Boomers, combined, according to

Higher Housing Costs

Gen X and millennials, along with older members of Gen Z, all face the challenge of higher housing costs. But Gen X may have had more opportunities to buy a home while both prices and interest rates were lower. Rising rent prices make it harder for millennials who have not yet bought a home to stabilize their housing costs, according to Epperson.

Living In an Expensive Time of Their Lives

Finally, millennials may have trouble juggling all their expenses, including mounting credit card debt, because they are in an expensive era of their lives.  

“[T]hey may be working to buy a house, have children and save for college all at the same time,” Epperson pointed out.

The return of student loan payments, continued inflation and housing costs, all make it more difficult for millennials to manage their money effectively.

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