Paying It Back: Real-world Debt Service Trends and Implications for Retirement Planning

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Wharton Pension Research Council Working Papers
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age range
asset level
auto loan
average annual debt service
debt life cycle
debt service patterns
home equity loans/lines of credit
income replacement
retirement planning
revolving credit card
spending transaction data
student loan
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Lester, Anne
Santiago, Katherine
Oh, Je
Wu, Livia
Chegaeva, Ekaterina

This research uses a unique data set to answer some fundamental questions that have not previously been fully addressed. Specifically, it provides a summary of the debt service patterns of United States consumers that is derived from de-identified Chase data. The primary purpose is to get a sense of real-world debt service trends through different life stages and, therefore, more realistically save for and live in retirement. To accomplish this, we will provide insights related to important questions that underlie retirement planning assumptions. What is the average level of debt service at various life points? What is the average composition of payments across different debt types? How much do households typically pay, on average, for the specific types of debt they support? Are there specific life-cycle patterns that occur for different types of debt service? Do wealthier households manage debt service differently from households with lower asset levels? This study explores these questions and outlines high-level implications for retirement planning.

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The published version of this working paper may be found in the 2020 publication: Remaking Retirement: Debt in an Aging Economy.(
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