20-somethings average $45,000 in debt

Student loans, credit cards, car loans, and mortgages weigh on Generation Y. What does the mounting debt for these young adults mean for the economy?

Stacey Vanek Smith: People in their 20s are carrying an average debt load of $45,000. That's according to a survey out today from PNC Bank. Shannon Johnson is director of consumer checking and rewards there. She joins us now. Good morning, Shannon.

Shannon Johnson: Good morning, Stacey.

Vanek Smith: Shannon, what happened here? Why are young people in so much debt?

Johnson: They typically start off in their early 20s with education loans. Once they start to think about buying a car, buying a house, obviously debt usually comes along with that. So as they go through their 20s they start to see their debt level increase.

Vanek Smith: But isn't this, to a certain extent, how the world works? You have to take on a lot of debt early to make it, invest in yourself, and things like that?

Johnson: Right. So the participants in this survey had at least some college education. And in this economy in particular a college education is a really important part of getting a job. So many of these Gen Y's have invested in college to see a return in terms of their career. Unfortunately, with the job market, they aren't seeing that as soon as they had hoped.

Vanek Smith: What does this mean for the economy broadly?

Johnson: It really means that this generation really needs to be in control of their finances. They're starting out a bit behind in the sense that they are more challenged, typically, in getting jobs and they are graduating with debt. So they need to be very disciplined about how they approach their finances. But it really comes down to starting those good habits early in their 20s and continuing them on.

Vanek Smith: Shannon Johnson is the director of consumer checking and rewards at PNC Bank. Shannon, thank you.

Johnson: Thank you, Stacey.

About the author

Stacey Vanek Smith is a senior reporter for Marketplace, where she covers banking, consumer finance, housing and advertising.

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