If your main money goal for 2024 is paying down debt, you’d be part of the 22 percent of Americans who consider it their primary financial objective this year, according to a recent Bankrate survey. This is somewhat unsurprising given that, in Q3 of 2023, Americans accumulated $17.29 trillion of new credit card debt for a total of $1.08 trillion in balances, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The Bankrate survey assessed Americans’ confidence in their current and future financial situations, finding that consumers who lean toward optimism about their 2024 finances are, in large part, basing that confidence on forecasted pay raises. And although many could use this boost in income to pay down debt, several economic obstacles — including the high cost of living, the ongoing legacy of high inflation and high interest rates — could throw a wrench into their debt payoff plans.

Pay raise key insights

Bankrate insight
  • It was more common for employed Americans to receive a pay raise (48 percent) than get a better paying job (26 percent) between October 2022 and October 2023. (Bankrate)
  • At 47 percent, Gen Z made up the majority of those who got a better paying job in that timeframe. (Bankrate)
  • 35 percent of pay raises received were performance-based, and another 31 percent were due to the increase in cost of living. (Bankrate)
  • 28 percent of Americans who received a pay raise in the survey period received less than a 3 percent increase on their wage. (Bankrate)

Pay raises by generation

According to Bankrate’s survey, employed adults reported relatively similar rates of pay raises across generations. But one group inched ahead of the others: Generation X (ages 43 to 58).

Between October 2022 and October 2023, over half (51 percent) of Gen X survey participants say they received a pay raise. In comparison, 46 percent of Generation Z (ages 18-27) and Millennials (ages 28-42) say they received pay raises, while Baby Boomers (ages 59-77) came in at 48 percent.

Although younger generations are a hair behind when it comes to pay raises, they may be more likely to leverage their career potential by securing better paying jobs at a higher rate. Almost half (47 percent) of Gen Z respondents reported increasing their income by switching jobs during the survey period. Millennials weren’t far behind, with 31 percent swapping jobs to boost their income.

Gen X and Baby Boomers have had time to establish strong footholds in their careers and are more likely to hold senior positions, while Millennials and Gen Z are still navigating the earlier and middle stages of their careers. This may contribute to the finding that older generations are more likely to benefit from pay raises from their current employers, rather than by seeking out new jobs.

If you’re looking for a pay raise to ring in 2024, should you expect a cost of living adjustment? Or should you be more proactive about pursuing a performance-based increase? According to Bankrate data, only 35 percent of reported salary increases were performance-based, while another 31 percent of pay jumps were considered cost of living adjustments. Members of Gen X and Baby Boomers were more likely to receive cost of living increases, at 36 and 37 percent respectively.

Financial stability and debt payoff by generation

With so many employees across generations receiving pay raises, what impact might these increases have on their overall financial stability or their ability to pay off debt? To start, let’s look at each generation’s current financial position.

A December 2023 Bankrate survey found Americans carrying over a higher rate of credit card balances than previous years, with 49 percent of cardholders carrying balances over from month to month. An alarming 58 percent of these cardholders had been in credit card debt for a year or more.

Here, Gen X surpassed other generations, with 55 percent of respondents reporting carrying over credit card balances. Here’s how other age groups fared:

  • Millennials weren’t far behind at 51 percent
  • Gen Z kept pace, with 48 percent rolling over balances each month
  • Baby Boomers came in last at 44 percent

Why are Americans carrying credit card debt? According to Bankrate’s data, emergency expenses were one of the primary drivers for going into credit card debt. Car repairs, medical bills and home repairs caught consumers off guard — especially after inflationary pressures drove many to pause contributions to their savings. When savings are depleted and emergencies crop up, credit cards can become an expensive way to foot the bill. That makes consistent savings habits a major component of creating financial stability.

Yet, even with pay raises spanning across age groups, financial stability encompasses more than just boosting your income. It comes down to a combination of factors working together to build security within your financial situation, including your spending, money management habits and relative insulation from economic changes.

When Bankrate analyzed how Americans viewed their financial situation for 2024, about the same portion of Americans believed it would stay the same (38 percent) or get better (37 percent). Still, over a quarter of respondents thought their finances would get worse this year.

When divulging the reasons behind their 2024 money predictions, optimistic Americans attributed their forecasted improvement to these three main factors:

  1. Rising income (42 percent)
  2. Better spending habits (38 percent)
  3. Having less debt (32 percent)

On the opposite side, those who expected their finances to get worse blamed it on these reasons:

  1. Continued high inflation (61 percent)
  2. Stagnant or reduced income (32 percent)
  3. Work done by elected representatives (31 percent)

Income is a significant determinant on both ends of the spectrum. However, it’s worth noting that the legacy of high inflation stands heads above the rest as an obstacle to financial stability.

Inflation is indicated by the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, which measures the rate of price changes for consumer goods and services. As of the end of December 2023, inflation sits at 3.4 percent. If your wages haven’t increased over the past year, your unchanged income would afford you roughly three percent less than last year. To maintain the same buying power, your income would need to increase at or above the rate of inflation, but that’s not what’s happening for many Americans.

According to Bankrate’s October pay raise survey, 28 percent of Americans who received a pay raise received less than a 3 percent increase. Another 36 percent of Americans didn’t get a raise or a better paying job this year. When wages aren’t keeping up with inflation, it presents a challenge for Americans striving to make ends meet.

To gain more control over their financial stability Americans may need to simultaneously hold two goals at the forefront: Saving for emergencies to avoid taking on extra debt, and paying down existing credit card debt to free up more income. Here’s how each generation could approach these objectives.

Generation Z

As the youngest working generation, Gen Z is fresh on the scene and still learning to navigate the complexities of career, money and the economy. Chasing independence away from their parents comes with high costs, though this hasn’t stopped many members of the generation from trying to strike out on their own. However, in some cases, this has resulted in taking on debt in the process. Roughly 46 percent of Gen Zers who carry a credit card balance report being in debt for at least a year.

According to Bankrate’s financial freedom survey Gen Z’s financial security is mainly impacted by a combination of high inflation, low incomes and low career mobility. These factors are leading some Gen Zers to delay moving away from their parents or to find alternative ways to live independently. It’s also causing them to rethink what the traditional standard of success means for them.


Millennials are another group feeling the ongoing impacts of high inflation and low pay. However, they’re doing so while dealing with a higher debt burden than Gen Z.

Almost six in 10 millennials with credit card debt have carried their balances for at least a year. As a result of taking on significant debt — as well as the added financial pressures of inflation and high costs of living — many have had to delay or entirely cut traditional milestones like buying a home, getting married and having children. Further, over half of millennials say that money has negatively impacted their mental health, with debt being one of the primary stressors.

Generation X

Gen X reports the highest number of pay raises, but they’re also carrying over credit card balances from month to month at the highest level. Plus, three in five Gen Xers with credit card debt carry their balances for at least a year.

Thanks to inflation, this generation has increasingly had to cut back on saving, which adds to their money stress. Despite earning raises or better paying jobs, 65 percent of Gen Xers believe their income hasn’t kept up with their household expenses due to inflation. This is especially impactful given Gen X’s position as a “sandwich” generation that’s often caught between the demands of raising children and caring for elderly parents.

Baby Boomers

Given their time in the market, Baby Boomers tend to be more insulated from the burdens of the economy — but they aren’t entirely unscathed. While it’s true that this age group was more likely than others to receive a cost of living increase, this could signal that their wage growth has been lagging behind their true value in the workplace.

With 54 percent of Boomers receiving less than a 3 percent raise over the past 12 months, it’s easy to see why seven in  10 believe their wages haven’t kept up with inflation.

Tips for managing credit card debt

The impact of credit card debt reaches beyond the strain to your budget. In a 2023 Bankrate survey, 47 percent of Americans who said money concerns had a negative impact on their mental health attributed some of the blame to being in debt. If you’re expecting a bump in pay this year it can be tempting to increase your lifestyle alongside your new income.

However, If you resist the urge to spend unnecessarily and contribute more towards knocking down your credit card balances, you’ll save money on interest, improve your credit score and potentially relieve some financial stress. Consider these three methods for managing your credit card debt:

  • The snowball method: If you need a quick boost of confidence to propel your debt payoff efforts, the snowball method could help keep you motivated. That’s because this method lets you enjoy small wins as you pay off your individual debts from the smallest balance to the largest and roll your monthly debt payments over to the next debt as each is paid off.
  • The debt avalanche: This is the reverse of the snowball method, but it’s arguably more effective, since you’ll pay less in interest overall. The debt avalanche method focuses your debt payments on the highest APR debt first, so you’ll pay extra on the card with the highest interest rate and make the minimum payment on your other cards. Once the first credit card is paid off, continue rolling the payment over to the card with the next largest interest rate.
  • Debt consolidation: Debt consolidation — or the process of paying off one or multiple existing debts with a new loan — can help you get out of debt more quickly by reducing your interest and giving you a fixed monthly payment that can be easier to budget for.

Of course, one downside of debt consolidation loans is that you’ll typically be responsible for a larger payment than the minimum payments you’ve been accustomed to on your credit cards. Before opting for any individual debt payment strategy, run the numbers to find an option that’s sustainable for your budget and helps you get out of debt as quickly as possible.


  • Paying off credit card debt can be accelerated by using a debt payoff strategy, such as the avalanche or snowball method. Pair this with tools like a debt consolidation loan or a balance transfer credit card to save on interest and pay off credit card debt faster.
  • The average credit card debt in the United States is $6,365 as of the second quarter of 2023 according to Experian. According to this report, credit card debt jumped up by 11.7 percent from the previous year.
  • Managing debt requires a plan for how you’ll distribute any additional income towards your debt payments. This often comes in the form of making a budget or adjusting your spending habits. You can find ways to make your debt payments more manageable by consolidating multiple due dates or payments into one loan.