Nearly 1 in 5 Americans Say They’ll Die in Debt

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A new survey reveals that 18 percent of Americans think they'll be saddled with debt for the rest of their lives.

In what may be one of the most depressing statistics you’ll read this year, nearly 1 in 5 Americans expect their debt to accompany them to their grave.

That’s according to a new survey by, which revealed that 18 percent of Americans with debt think it’s forever, double the 9 percent who shared the same bleak outlook in last year’s survey.

Matt Schulz, senior analyst at, told Time that consumers likely factored in a number of issues, including student loans and credit card balances, to come up with their pessimistic viewpoint on debt.

“Underemployment is still a problem as is wage growth, even though unemployment is lower,” he says. This malaise stretches across the economic spectrum. The survey found that higher incomes don’t translate to optimism. Households who earn more than $75,000 aren’t much more confident about their ability to shed their debt than less well-off families.

Other survey highlights include:

  • Free and clear. On average, Americans expect to be debt-free by the time they’re 53. But 11 percent of respondents said they’ll be paying on credit cards, a mortgage or some other debt until they’re in their 70s.
  • Holiday debt. Already this holiday season, 38 percent of consumers reported making holiday purchases with their credit cards. More than half of those with holiday credit card debt said they’ll have it paid off in a month.
  • Debt and ethnicity. White Americans (15 percent) are more likely to anticipate dying in debt than black Americans (9 percent) or Hispanic Americans (8 percent). “This is an intriguing set of data,” Christopher Viale, president of Cambridge Credit Counseling of Massachusetts, told “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.”

According to Time, there could be consequences if consumers’ pessimistic views end up becoming reality.

“Continuous debt can mean indefinitely postponing retirement and that can cause a host of issues,” [Schulz] says. “It can also cause great economic stress on those people’s children.” This “sandwich generation” are often caught in the middle trying to support both their grown children and their parents.

What happens to your debt after you die? Money Talks News’ Stacy Johnson explains in this video.

Stacy Johnson

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