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Do young people have more debt now?

Ask many young people, and they'll tell you a familiar story: Millennials are being crushed by debt. The focus, typically, is on student loan debt. The narrative this creates is that young people these days don't have nearly the opportunities and options that people did a generation ago because this debt is crippling.

This story is both right and wrong. As far as student loan debt goes, there's no doubt that it's higher than it's ever been. Even as colleges are giving students an education, they are also hindering their futures with the cost. In 2003, student loan debt clocked in at just $20,000, on average. In 2015, just a bit over a decade later, it had soared to about $50,000.

However, young people in 2015 don't take out nearly as many other types of debt. They don't have the same overall debt in car loans, mortgage loans, credit cards, and the like. While student loan debt is higher, overall debt for this age group is lower than it was in 2003. Rather than being crippled by unprecedented debt, recent graduates owe less.

That doesn't necessarily change the feeling young people have that they owe too much. After all, they are merely paying for their diplomas. A person in 2003 may have had more debt, but he or she may also have had a new car and a house. A person of the same age in 2015 may owe less overall, but he or she may also be without these tangible assets -- and unable to buy them due to the price of student loans.

If you are in massive debt, no matter how you got there, be sure you know what debt relief options you have. Though student loans often don't factor into bankruptcy, they may if they're shown to be an undue hardship.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Millennials have less debt overall now than they did in 2003," Ylan Q. Mui, accessed Oct. 20, 2016

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