real life

We asked 12 women in their 20s and 30s to share exactly how much debt they're in right now.

We know how much money random millennials have in their bank accounts. We know their salaries and how much millennials save every month. We even asked about their tax returns.

And now, because this is clearly a very juicy topic I can’t stop writing about and you guys keep clicking on, let’s cover the not-so-pretty money stuff.


Credit cards, student loans, car loans, personal loans; I reached out to Mamamia‘s millennial readers and asked, ‘Exactly how much money do you owe?’

Again, hundreds of you got back to me.

Many of the answers were illuminating. And by “illuminating” I mean slightly anxiety-inducing.

That said, no matter how badly you feel about your financial health – no matter how much you feel like you’re drowning – be assured that you are not alone. And, as some stories shared below, you can turn it around.

But before you read anything, let me share this. Across almost every single person in debt, the biggest regret was the same: getting a credit card to live a life beyond their means.

Here are 12 women’s stories, which I picked at random.

Groundhog day, 32

This Mamamia reader currently has four credit cards, on which she owes about $45,000. Her situation is made more difficult by a car loan of $43,000, and a personal loan of $17,000. On top of this she has a mortgage of $600,000 (but at least has a home to show for it).


Understandably, this 32-year-old is feeling “terrible” about her financial situation, which is a source of stress on a daily basis.

The biggest financial mistake she’s ever made? “Continuing with credit cards.”

Should women feel ashamed for spending money on themselves? The Mamamia Out Loud team discuss. Post continues.

The simple money rule, 30

“I was taught that the only acceptable debt is against property or education,” one millennial told Mamamia. It goes without saying she has just the one credit card, but owes nothing on it.

She has a home loan of $870,000 with her husband, and is “very comfortable” with their financial position.

“My parents taught me good habits from early on, so I have always budgeted and never not paid a credit card off in full each month. My biggest mistake was when we renovated our house we underestimated what it would cost, and had to go back to the bank and ask for money. I am also rubbish at asking for a raise.”

Lost and confused, 24

Three credit cards with a total of $12,000 debt is enough to make this twenty-something stressed.

The real pain comes from her personal loans, though. She owes another $55,000 on them.

“I am in a terrible state financially because of poor decisions and lack of understanding,” the 24-year-old told Mamamia.

“My biggest mistake was ever getting a credit card.”


Drowning, 26

This 26-year-old’s money story is complicated; her spending is tied up with her mental health.

“I’m an emotional shopper, I suffer from depression and anxiety and use shopping as a means to make me feel better, hence why I’ve racked up so much debt,” she told Mamamia.

“I combined my old credit card and car loan into a personal loan to help pay it off and then got another credit card.”

She currently has $15,000 of debt on her one credit card, owes $21,000 in HELP student loans, and a $7000 personal loan.

“I feel terrible. I’m drowning in debt and still living with my parents while my friends are buying houses or at least renting and travelling. Getting a credit card was the biggest mistake I made.”

A new leaf, 34

This reader once struggled with debt, but is now happily clearing up her finances. Unsurprisingly, she’s doing so with The Barefoot Investor in hand.

“We did have two credit cards but as of November 2017 we owe zero on both cards! I am going to cancel them shortly so I’m never tempted to use them again.”

The thirty-something currently has $2500 on a personal loan but she and her partner are paying extra on it every month to run it down to $0 quickly.

“Since implementing Barefoot Investor strategies I feel much more confident about our financial security and how we will manage our money throughout life,” she told Mamamia.


“I think many people my age look like they are doing well because they have nice cars, a new house, and fancy holidays but they are actually up to their eye balls in debt. And that was our biggest mistake – getting a credit card and borrowing a lot of money just to have a nice car that just loses value year after year.”

average debt in your 20s
"I think many people my age look like they are doing well because they have nice cars, a new house, and fancy holidays but they are actually up to their eye balls in debt." Image: Getty.

Young and reckless, 26

This 26-year-old's problems began the day she gained her independence.


"I got silly with my cards as soon as I turned 18 with nothing to show for it. I feel like I shouldn’t have been given one and student credit cards shouldn’t exist," she told Mamamia.

She currently has three credit cards with $30,000 of debt, with HELP and personal loans totalling $40,000.

“I feel like I’m in significantly more debt than someone my age should be. I’ve cut up my cards because even having them is a temptation. My biggest financial mistake was taking out new credit cards to do balance transfers and then not closing the old accounts.”

Pearly whites, 24

For this millennial, her only debt is $3000, which she took out to get braces.

"This is brand new debt that is yet to be paid off, but I have worked out an eight-week repayment schedule," she told Mamamia.

She doesn't own a credit card.

"My biggest mistake was getting a car loan. I swore up and down I’d never put myself into debt for something that depreciated. Then I did. I paid for it, literally."

Bad timing, 34

For this British ex-pat, timing was her worst enemy.

"We bought a house in the UK at the height of the market and then lost £80,000 (AU$142,000) when the market crashed and we were forced to sell when we moved to Australia," she told Mamamia.

She and her husband have four credit cards with a total of $30,000 in debt. She also has a car loan of $4000 and a personal loan of $20,000.


Hopefully, though, the couple can be in the clear if they put their cards down for a few years.

“I am in huge debt with my husband as we borrowed money from our parents to use as a house deposit. We earn more than enough to pay everything back within the next three years and still have a healthy savings account.

"My only worry is that if one of us loses our job then we would be in a very difficult position."

The simple life, 32

"I own five credit cards but have zero debt on them. I actually have zero debt overall."

This woman feels "great" about her financial situation, which mostly boils down to living a "simple life with my partner and two cats."

"I have no need for designer handbags, monthly trips to Japan, and all the other luxurious things people my age seem to crave.

"My biggest mistake was signing up for a monthly gym membership and staying on for two years without ever really using it."

World traveller, 26

Three credit cards with a total of $12,500 in debt and a $9500 HELP student loan is enough to make this millennial feel "a little uneasy".

"I don’t like living pay to pay but I find that most of my friends around the same age are in similar situations," she told Mamamia.

"My biggest mistake was racking up significant credit card debt while travelling.”


The relationship mistake, 30

This reader has zero credit cards, but a pretty hefty car loan and mortgages that total $490,000.

Without a doubt her biggest mistake is something many women can relate to: Not knowing her husband's financial situation before getting married.

"My husband's financial literacy skills are shocking! His approach to money stresses me out.

“I’m concerned about my financial situation - I recently returned to work part-time following maternity leave. Prior to having a baby I was the main breadwinner."

Binning the cards, 26

This millennial is working hard to rid herself of credit card debt. As it stands, she has two cards and owes a total of $4000 on them. Her HELP, car, and personal loans stand at a touch over $70,000.

"I feel pretty good about my financial situation. I'm working towards ditching the credit cards and I'm in a great place with my career which has enabled me to save money and pay off debt quicker," she told Mamamia.

“100 per cent credit cards are a bad idea. So many people, myself included, max out their first card when they're young and spend years paying it off. My message to young people is don't do it!! Or if you really do need to have a credit card, have a low credit limit and be strict on paying it off.”

Were you surprised by these women's stories? Tell us your own in the comments below...