Although the share of U.S. households carrying debt fell from 74 percent to 69 percent between 2000 and 2011, the median debt load climbed from an inflation-adjusted $50,971 to $70,000 over the same period, the Census Bureau reports. According to the bureau, the largest debt spike was for households led by people 35 to 44 years old, who owed a median of $108,000. There also was a doubling of the amount of debt owed by seniors to a median of $26,000, and this group's housing debt led the boost in their overall debt load, the government reported. "We've known for five-plus years that seniors are falling into debt, and it's very troubling," said personal finance expert Lynnette Khalfani-Cox. "Most of us have this idealized concept of riding into the sunset with a paid-off house. Unfortunately, that isn't the case." The volume of unsecured debt like student loans and uninsured medical costs rose to 19 percent from 11 percent -- led by people under age 45 -- but far fewer Americans today have credit card debt. Just over 50 percent had credit card bills early last decade compared to 38 percent now.