Northwestern Mutual survey participated named these 6 items as their leading sources of debt, ranked from least common to most common...

6. Medical bills: 3%

5. Home equity loans (and lines of credit): 4%

5. Car loans: 8%

3. Direct education costs and education-related loans: 13%


2. Mortgage loans: 21%

1. Credit card bills: 22%

U.S. consumers may tend to have shaky finances, but, before COVID-19 hit, they were starting to get debt under control.

A Northwestern Mutual team has reported that finding in a summary of the results of an online poll, of 2,650 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, that was conducted from Feb. 12 through Feb. 25.

About 74% of the participants in the new poll said they had debt. When Northwestern Mutual organized a similar poll in 2019, 73% said they had no debt.


  • Links to Northwestern Mutual’s consumer financial strength report and its consumer debt report are available here.
  • An article about an earlier Northwestern Mutual look at consumer debt is available here.

But the average level of debt reported fell to $26,621, down from $29,800 in 2019, and down from $38,000 in 2018.

Health policymakers often worry about the effects of health insurance costs and out-of-pocket health care spending on people’s debt.

For a look at where health-related debt fits in with the rest of Americans’ debt see the slideshow above.

To make the control arrows show up, wiggle your pointer over the first slide.

— Read Americans Financially Unprepared for Long Liveson ThinkAdvisor.

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