The average household is carrying almost $16,000 in credit card debt

There's been so much good news on the economic front these days — from consumer confidence on the rise to a thriving stock market and strong jobs report — that you'd be forgiven for not noticing one of other things that is happening: Americans are doing quite bit more borrowing these days.

We consumers are accumulating a great deal of debt. New figures from finance website NerdWallet's 2017 household debt study show that the average household is loaded down with $15,654 in credit card debt. The study indicates that a lot of this is because over the past 10 years, spending has outpaced income growth, increasing the red ink.

“Many Americans are putting medical expenses on credit cards; and the average indebted household is paying hundreds of dollars in credit card interest each year,” the study says. Despite this less than cheery news, there are some positive takeaways from the findings.

Household income is starting to catch up to the cost of living. Also, a “significant” number of people with credit card debt admit that they are in the red because of unnecessary spending, which can be corrected.

Here’s a snapshot of the kind of household debt Americans face, according to NerdWallet’s analysis:

Type of debt Total owed by average U.S. household carrying this type of debt Total debt owed by U.S. consumers
Credit cards $15,654 $905 billion
Mortgages $173,995 $8.74 trillion
Auto loans $27,669 $1.21 trillion
Student loans $46,597 $1.36 trillion
Any type of debt $131,431 $12.96 trillion

“Finding a way to put money toward paying off debt, especially high interest debt, is the best way to free yourself from the vise grip debt can have on your budget,” Kimberly Palmer, NerdWallet’s credit card expert, was quoted as saying.

Try this Clark-approved process to paying off credit card debt

Money expert Clark Howard says one way consumers can get a handle on their credit card debt is to use a technique called “laddering.” Laddering is the process of paying off the credit card with the highest interest rate. Clark says that if you have multiple credit cards, that should be “your first goal.”

"Pay more money toward that credit card and slightly less toward the other cards, until the card with highest-interest debt has a zero balance. Then you move onto the next card, and so on and so on," Clark writes. "Resist the temptation to close the account when it's at a zero balance. Doing so will only hurt your credit score."

The  Clark Howard guide to paying off credit card debt

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