Poll: 21 percent of Americans say they’ll be in debt until they die

WASHINGTON — Just as holiday shopping season ramps up — and spending along with it, more Americans than ever say they believe they will never pay off their debt, according to a new poll.

Twenty-one percent of Americans said they think they will never get rid of their debt, according to a CreditCards.com survey released Tuesday of more than 1,000 U.S. adults. The number is up from 18 percent in 2014 and 9 percent in 2013 who said their debt seemed insurmountable heading into the holidays.

Among those in debt, almost half of those polled — 48 percent — say they’ll remain in debt until age 61 or later. The average age those polled said they expected to be debt-free is 54.

Although some people feel overwhelmed by their debt, the poll found growth in the number of people living without debt. Twenty-two percent of all Americans said they don’t have any debt at all, which is up from 14 percent in 2014.

CreditCards.com’s Senior Industry Analyst Matt Schulz says it’s a troubling divide between those who are submerged in debt and those who are debt free.

“While it’s great to see more people freeing themselves from debt, the fact that more and more people still feel trapped and hopeless means that Americans still have a major problem with debt,” Schulz said in a news release.

Many millennials are racking up debt, but the generation is optimistic about being able to pay it off — more so than any other age group. Only 11 percent of the millennials surveyed said believe they will never be debt-free.

Schulz offers tips for controlling debt:

  • Create sensible budgets and track expenses.
  • Seek out zero- percent interest balance transfer offers.
  • Negotiate lower interest rates on your current credit cards.

Schulz says people have more power over their debt than they realize.

“The most important thing is simply to take action — even small ones — to start knocking that debt down,” he said in the release.

The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International Nov. 19-22, 2015. More than 1,000 U.S. adults completed the survey over the phone. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

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Sarah Beth Hensley

Sarah Beth Hensley is the Digital News Director at WTOP. She has worked several different roles since she began with WTOP in 2013 and has contributed to award-winning stories and coverage on the website.

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