Financial Ball and Chain: Why Many People Think They'll Carry Debt ... Forever

Financial Ball and Chain: Why Many People Think They'll Carry Debt ... Forever

When you start to think about your golden years, what do you envision?

Are you, say, kicking back at your lake house with the grandkids ... or stuck at a side gig so you can continue chipping away at your debt?

Unfortunately, nearly 1 in 5 Americans expect the latter. That's right: 18% of respondents in a new CreditCards.com survey assume they won't be able to pay off all their loans in their lifetime.

What's worse, that percentage is double the amount from last year's survey. And even though the majority of Americans don't plan to take their debt to the grave, they still foresee themselves spending a great deal of their lives in the red: The average age respondents expect to become debt-free is 53.

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Though credit card debt has grown slightly since 2013, it's more likely that student loans are what's really driving all this pessimism.

After all, total college debt jumped from $363 billion in 2005 to $966 billion by the end of 2012, according to numbers from the Federal Reserve of New York. And it's not just Millennials that are feeling bogged down by all this debt: older respondents might be factoring in the likelihood that they'll end up taking on student loans for their children as well, Matt Schulz, senior analyst at CreditCards.com, told CNBC.

Of course, a general post-recession hangover could also be to blame. "The reality is that we went through a really bad financial crisis, and there are consequences to that," Angela Lyons, director of the University of Illinois' 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."

Want to dig yourself out of the hole before you hit your golden years—or better yet, much, much earlier? Start here, by creating a plan to rid yourself of debt.

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