AUSTIN, Tex. (CBSDC) – Almost one in five Americans believe they will die while still in debt, according to a new survey commissioned by CreditCards.com.
The survey was conducted during the first week of December as the holiday shopping began.
CreditCards.com conducted phone interviews of 1,001 Americans between December 4 and 7.
Researchers found that 18 percent of those already in debt expect to die in debt. That is double the percentage from when CreditCards.com asked the same question in May 2013.
Among all Americans, 13 percent they will never pay off all their loans and get clear of debt.
“These numbers are disturbing,” Christopher Viale, president of Cambridge Credit Counseling of Massachusetts, a nonprofit organization that helps becomes debt free, told CreditCards.com. “I am most concerned about the 13 percent who expect that they’ll never be debt-free, given all the negative consequences that come with such a bleak outlook.”
Many Americans are currently getting deeper into debt now by purchasing holiday gifts on credit cards. The researchers found that 55 percent of those who have already entered into holiday-related debt plan to pay it off within a month and 74 percent plan to pay it off within three months.
“Like any other short-term financial goal, holiday debt needs to be resolved relatively quickly,” Viale added. “Otherwise, it starts getting in the way of your goals. No one should take on so much holiday debt that it will take them more than three months to comfortably pay off their balances.”
The survey also found that women are half as likely as men to believe they will not be able to pay off their loans during their lifetime.
Only 6 percent of already-indebted millennials say they will never get out of debt, compared with 31 percent of debtors over the age of 65 and 22 percent between the ages of 50 and 64.
Whites are more likely to see themselves dying in debt than African Americans or Hispanics. “This is an intriguing set of data,” Viale said. “At first glance, I would guess that the numbers reflect the fact that more of the white non-Hispanic consumers are carrying student loan debt.”
Many economic specialists feel Americans are just doing what they need to deal with the aftermath of the Great Recession.
“The reality is that we went through a really bad financial crisis, and there are consequences to that,” Angel Lyons, an associate professor at the University of Illinois and director of the school’s Center for Economic and Financial Education, told CreditCards.com. “Those consequences do not go away overnight, and we have to pay for them over time.”
“I believe that, at hart, Americans are smart and they’re doing what thehy can right now to reduce interest rates and to lower their debt,” Lyons added. “If they’re not, this is a good time for them to look at those opinions.”
According to the Federal Reserve, U.S. student loan debt soared form $550 billion in 2007 to almost $1 trillion in 2013; yet, tis survey revealed that many young Americans believe they will pay off all their debt by the time they are 30 years old.
Viale does not belive this is realistic.
“These numbers may be a bit on the optimistic side, but young people tend to answer financial questions very hopefully,” Viale told CreditCards.com. “When we ask 16 and 17-year-olds how much they think they’ll make after graduating from college, we never get an answer less than $100,000.”
It is not just the young people that are falling into debt; many more elderly are also getting deeper into debt. Specialists believe it is due to the same reason – The Great Depression.
The median amount owed by people 65 or older on their mortgages increased by 82 percent, according to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
This survey found that 17 percent of Americans older than 65 believe they will never get out of debt.
“Historically, we’ve gone through bad economic cycles before, during which people have ended up in a situation where they had to take out more debt just to survive,” Lyons said.
Experts suggest that people who want to get out of debt contact credit counselors to get a better understanding on controlling finance.
“The value of financial education can’t be understated,” Viale said. “Until now, most young people have adopted the financial behavior of their parents, who also never formally learned about personal finance during their school years.
“When people learn how to efficiently manage their finance, a world of opportunity opens up to them,” Viale added. “Financial freedom doesn’t require that you make a lot of money. It simply means that you know how to live within your means and make you money work for you as you achieve your financial goals.”