The survey also found that the number of people who are debt free increased to 22 percent this year from 14 percent the year earlier. In fact, Schulz said that, surprisingly, individuals making up to $30,000 a year are the most likely to say they are free of debt.
Those making at least $75,000 per year are the least likely to be free of debt, the survey said. However, they are also the ones most confident in their ability to pay off that debt, while those making less money are more likely to feel trapped by it. People with no children were also more likely to say they’ll never get out of debt than parents.
Among those in debt, about half, or 48 percent, said they’ll remain that way into their 60s.
“Even [for] people who don’t see themselves getting out of debt, it’s important not to be paralyzed by hopelessness,” he said. Schulz advised people in debt to take certain small steps toward paying it down, including making a budget and asking for lower interest rates on credit cards or transferring to a zero-percent interest card.
Millennials most optimistic about debt?
The study also found that — despite their high-levels of debt — millennials are the most optimistic about paying it down, with only 11 percent saying they will never live debt free.
“It kind of speaks to the optimism of youth,” Schulz said.
Schulz said he believes more people will have a better outlook regarding debt as their perception of the economy improves.
The survey polled 1,004 adults living in the U.S. and was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from Nov. 19 until Nov. 22 with a sampling error of plus or minus 3.6 percent.