In a sad testament to the growing wealth inequality in our society, more than one in five Americans expects to die in debt. According to a new survey published by CreditCards.com on December 8th, over 21% of U.S. consumers who have debts expect they will die before they can pay off the loans.
More U.S. consumers than ever expect to die in debt
Based on the new CreditCards.com survey, 21 percent of those with debt expect to die still owing money. That figure has increased from 18% last year and 9% in 2013 who said their debts were too big to ever be fully paid off.
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In what seems like a strange contrast, the survey also found that quite a few people had improved their situations enough that they were living debt-free. Of note, 22% of those replying to the 2015 survey noted that they have no debt, relative to just 14% in 2014.
Survey reflects the growing divide between the “haves” and “have nots” in U.S.
As author Tony Mecia highlights, the data from the survey personal debt shows that Americans are heading in two different directions. Mecia notes: “While that might seem like a contradiction, economists say the figures reveal two distinct trends in personal finance.”
He goes on to point out that many U.S. consumers have shrunk their debts after years of becoming overextended on credit since the financial crisis of 2008. As of the second quarter of 2015, the percentage of Americans who paid off their entire credit card balances every month reached an eight-year of almost 30%, based on data from the American Bankers Association.
Other Americans, however, are struggling with losing their job or major health care bills that seem like more than they can possibly pay off, particularly if they are already holding other debt. As one example of this trend, student loan delinquencies have begun to move up notably over the last couple of years.
“You’re talking about two distinct groups there, so it’s not surprising,” explains James Chessen, the chief economist of the ABA. “Generally, I’m bullish on consumers and how they have been handling their debt. However, there are some delinquencies, and there are some people who for various reasons have difficulty paying their obligations.”
According to recent data from the Fed, total U.S. household debt is still around 5% under its peak in 2008.