Gen Z Is Averaging Higher Credit Scores Than Millennials: Is It Financial Competence Or Timing?
Kaitlin Davis7-minute read
PUBLISHED: July 13, 2023
Despite the assumption that financial health improves as one gets older, a recent study by Rocket LoansSM challenges this belief. Curious about the financial lives of various generations, we analyzed data from clients who obtained personal loans financed through Rocket Loans in the past year. This research found that the Generation Z age group is already averaging higher credit scores than millennials. Furthermore, Gen Z is more comparable to older generations in terms of credit utilization and personal loan usage.
Financial health is determined by a few factors such as credit score, income and debt. Generally, with time and experience, one can build their credit, receive higher wages and invest in major assets. So, why is it the youngest adults in the United States are faring so well against their older counterparts?
Credit Scores By Generation
Based on the data examined, there may be correlation between older ages and higher financial wellness – which makes sense. After all, the factors that make up a credit score include payment history, making payments on time, credit utilization, length of credit history, new credit and credit mix. As one ages, their credit history grows longer. They typically take on more types of credit and become more responsible with budgeting and paying off debt.
However, the data shows one shocking exception – and it comes from the youngest generation.
We found that the national average credit score is 712. According to our findings, the average credit scores by generation are:
- Baby Boomers: 731
- Gen X: 710
- Millennials: 702
- Gen Z: 705
Baby Boomers have the highest credit scores among the generations, with Gen X coming in second, trailing baby boomers by 21 points and falling just below the national average. And, while both Gen Z and millennials fall below the preceding generations, Gen Z is currently outscoring millennials by three points.
The data shows that credit utilization, which makes up 30% of a credit score, may be helping influence these numbers.
How Does Credit Utilization Differ By Generation?
Credit utilization rate, also known as credit utilization ratio, is the percentage of total credit used compared to total credit available (total amount owed divided by total amount available). To find this percentage, you divide the total amount of revolving credit a person uses into the amount of credit they have available. So, if you have a credit card with a $1,000 maximum and you have a balance of $100, your credit utilization ratio is 10%.
Credit utilization rates are based only on revolving credit, which is a type of credit that renews each time it’s paid back. Credit cards, personal lines of credit and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) are all types of revolving credit. This form of credit is not to be confused with installment credit, such as student loans, mortgages and personal loans.
According to our data, Americans have an average revolving credit limit of $30,200. The total credit limit averages by generation are:
- Baby Boomers: $40,843
- Gen X: $37,264
- Millennials: $28,754
- Gen Z: $13,799
We also found that Americans have about $13,300 in revolving credit debt, according to our data. The average revolving debt for each generation is:
- Baby Boomers: $12,881
- Gen X: $15,470
- Millennials: $12,128
- Gen Z: $5,491
The national average credit utilization rate is 39.3%, according to our data. These are the average credit utilization rates by generation:
- Baby Boomers: 31.5%
- Gen X: 41.5%
- Millennials: 42.2%
- Gen Z: 39.8%
Based on Rocket Loans data, baby boomers have the lowest average credit utilization rate. As data shows, they have comparatively higher average revolving credit limits. Since baby boomers are at retirement age and likely work with a fixed income, they may be more conscious about spending habits compared to younger generations still in the workforce. Also, baby boomers have been around for longer than other generations, meaning they probably have a better grasp on financial knowledge and responsibility.
However, Gen Z has the second lowest average credit utilization rate, despite having the least amount of life experience and a comparatively low average total credit limit of about $13,800. Gen Z uses about $6,000 less credit than millennials, and almost $10,000 less than Gen X.
How Does Personal Loan Usage Differ Among The Generations?
Another factor of credit scores is the type of credit one has. Creditors like to see a diverse mix of both revolving and installment credit. Personal loans are one type of installment credit and are commonly used to help finance different goals, like consolidating debt, purchasing a vehicle, starting a home improvement project or financing medical expenses.
The average amounts each generation took out for a personal loan are:
- Baby Boomers: $14,238
- Gen X: $15,015
- Millennials: $12,469
- Gen Z: $8,160
On average, Gen Z has borrowed lower loan amounts than older generations. If we add up the average personal loan amounts borrowed, Gen Z only contributes to about 16% of the near $50,000 total. In fact, they’ve borrowed $6,855 less than Gen X – the highest borrowing generation.
When it comes to loan purpose, 58% of the adult population intended to use the funds for debt consolidation. About 61% of millennials and 58% of Gen Xers reported they were using their personal loans for debt consolidation. However, Gen Z was 190% more likely to use their personal loans for an auto loan. On the other hand, baby boomers were 30% more likely to take out personal loans for home improvement projects.
Why Is Gen Z Doing So Well Compared To Millennials?
As many Gen Zers are freshly out of college, they may have not been required to start repaying student loans just yet. In fact, when you are in deferment, your student loan balance may show up on your credit report, but it doesn’t really hurt it. On top of that, in response to COVID-19, the CARES Act prohibited the accrual of interest on student loans, both subsidized and unsubsidized, and paused repayment requirements. Repayment is not expected to start back up until August 2023. This simply means that the youngest adult generation may not have felt the brunt of required monthly payments or the sting of late payments, delinquent balances and increasing loan amounts just yet.
When comparing Gen Z finances to millennials, the effects of the 2008 recession should be considered. It’s quite possible that when millennials were 18 – 26, they were financially set back. Afterall, in 2008, over 11 million people were unemployed, meaning millennials likely faced unemployment and financial setbacks early in their careers. Furthermore, employers' hiring projections for young adults decreased by nearly 21% between 2008 and 2009, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). This could explain, in part, why millennials, even a decade later, are trying to make up for lost time.
According to a study conducted by CNN Business, many millennials feel as if they could be better off had they not graduated during the 2008 recession. Their generation entered adult life during a period where unemployment rates were at an all-time high, the stock market was rapidly dropping and many companies reduced hiring numbers. For millennials who took out loans to finance their education, this would’ve been a hard financial hit. New college graduates typically must start paying on their loans less than a year after graduating (typically about 6 months), which could be difficult if they don’t have a solid source of income. On top of this, whether they could find a job or not, interest rates gradually accrued more debt balance making it difficult to recover.
Experiencing the consequences of the recession scared many millennials away from taking risks that could have improved their financial health, according to Forbes. After watching the housing market crash in 2008, many young adults were afraid to purchase a home. In the same way, they were also afraid to take on credit card debt and business loans, as they were afraid they would not be able to repay them. Furthermore, it didn’t help that many graduated with student loan debt and little-to-no money saved. The panic and stress brought on by The Great Recession could be a determining factor as to why millennials, and even Gen Xers, are further behind in their finances.
Financial literacy may also play a big role in the strides Gen Z is making. While the youngest adult population was raised in an era where social media had been accessible from a young age, older generations did not have the same pleasantries. Gen Z has had the power of the internet right in their pockets since they were children. From a simple Google search to finance influencers, there is limitless information on the web. However, despite the accessibility of the internet, we found that that 40% of Gen Zers receive financial advice from their parents – the same parents who have felt the brunt of lost opportunities.
It can be concluded that Gen Z has higher credit scores and seemingly better financial health than millennials due to timing and access to educational resources. When compared to people with more debt, possible delinquent balances and credit impacts from student loan debt, it makes sense that Gen Z is outscoring and keeping up with older generations.
Bottom Line: Gen Z Can Learn From The Past To Avoid Financial Insecurity
With student loans on pause and marriage, homeownership and children still on the horizon for most of Gen Z, timing and age may be playing a role in why this generation is stacking up so well against its older counterparts. However, the financial state of the country is proving uncertain as inflation increases and many economists fear another recession. Still, if the trajectory continues to trend upward, Gen Z just might be on the verge of becoming financially well off. Afterall, Gen Z is setting big financial goals despite the hurdles they’re facing. They’re budgeting, saving, purchasing homes and have already started building credit history – an incredible feat in our current financial climate.
To determine averages across different financial categories between generations, Rocket Loans analyzed anonymous client closed personal loan applications from the past year. All of the aggregated data was pulled May 2, 2023. For the purposes of this analysis, age generations were defined as Gen Z, ages 18 – 26, millennials, ages 27 – 42, Gen X, ages 43 – 58 and baby boomers, ages 59 – 77. Those that fell into the silent generation age 78 – 95 were excluded from the dataset because of lack of population size. FICO® credit score ranges are based on Experian’s VantageScore model.
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