NEW YORK (
) -- Colleges and universities are sending out bills (or more likely, e-bills) to students and their families this month for the 2013 fall semester.
Family budgeters already groaning at the burden of mortgage and
debt can only shake their head and try to figure out a practical way of spreading around their limited wealth, covering all the loan debts they've accumulated.
The good news is that Americans are doing a better job of handling that debt.
, a New York City account management services company, the average total debt held by users across the nation is declining, having decreased 1.1% through the first quarter of 2013 and 4.2% since the fourth quarter of 2012.
At first glance, financial consumers are stepping up to the plate and taking a good cut at their mortgage and student loan debt, if not their auto loan debt:
The average mortgage balance as of July 1 was $150,200, down approximately 4% from the end of 2012.
The national average student loan balance was $12,814, versus $12,826.04 at the close of the first quarter of 2013. The average loan payment also dropped nearly 8% in this period, from $121 to $112.
Auto loan balances have increased 7.9% since the end of 2012, to an average of $13,124.
But against that backdrop, another story emerges -- specifically that the size of individual loan debt depends on what city and state you live in.
For example, Californians owe the most, on average, on their mortgages. That suggests they're paying the highest prices in the country for a new home.
Highest mortgage loan debt, by city:
1. San Francisco:
2. Los Angeles:
3. San Diego:
4. New York:
5. Washington, D.C.:
6. Seattle-Tacoma, Wash.:
7. Sacramento, Calif.:
8. Portland, Ore.:
10. Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Fla.:
debt picture has a Dixie slant to it. Here are the top 10 cities for student loan debt, again from Manilla. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason why the South has five of the top 10 cities for student loan debt, other than residents of those cities have less cash on hand than the average American.
Highest student loan debt, by city:
2. Las Vegas:
4. Birmingham, Ala.:
5. Washington, DC:
6. Albany-Schenectady-Troy, N.Y.:
7. Richmond-Petersburg, Va.:
8. Phoenix, Ariz.:
9. Baton Rouge, La.:
On auto loans, the scene stays down south, with eight of the top 10 cities with the biggest vehicle loan debt below the Mason-Dixon line. Again, that suggests a lack of cash saved up for a new car or truck, as well as a burgeoning belief that the economy is getting better and that jobs are safer in 2013.
Highest auto loan debt, by city:
1. Little Rock-Pine Bluff, Ark.:
3. Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Fla.:
4. New Orleans:
5. New York:
6. Memphis, Tenn.:
7. Birmingham, Ala.:
8. Las Vegas:
9. Waco-Temple-Bryan, Texas:
10. San Antonio, Texas:
The big picture on U.S. consumer financial loan debt is a bit sunnier than last year. But depending on where you hang your hat, that picture may not be as sunny as you'd like to think.