Most Americans don’t know if they’ll ever be debt-free
If you have debt and don't know when or if you'll ever be able to pay it off, you're part of the 65 percent of Americans in exactly that situation, according to a new report from CreditCards.com.
That includes 41 percent who don't know when they'll pay off their debt. Twenty-five percent also expect to die in debt, said industry analyst Ted Rossman. But on the brighter side, 35 percent of Americans with debt think they'll pay off their obligations by age 53.
When you break it down by age group, Rossman said, there's a lot of optimism. Millennials believe they'll be out of debt by age 43. Gen-Xers said age 54 and Baby Boomers believe they'll be debt free by age 66.
Rossman said the most common debt identified was mortgage debt, held by more than half of the population. Credit card debt is close behind -- and he suggested those in debt prioritize it because of the high interest rates on most cards.
The average credit card rate is 17.4 percent, the highest ever seen and Creditcards.com's data goes back to the mid-1980s, Rossman said. He added that the average household with credit card debt owes $5,700.
If you only made minimum payments on that debt per month, you'd be in debt for almost 20 years, paying more than $7,000 in interest.
But don't fret. Rossman said it is possible to pay off your debt The best strategy is to sign up for a balance transfer credit card.
"You're going to move your debt to a zero percent rate, typically 12 to 21 months," Rossman said. Most balance transfer cards will, however, hit you with a 3 to 5 percent transfer fee, but there are a few that do not.
Creditcards.com data also found that 80 percent of people surveyed have a strategy to get out of credit card debt, so that's a good start, Rossman said. The most common strategy in the study was paying substantially more than the minimum payment, Rossman said.
He said you really need to take a good look as to what got you in debt. Identify it, then get out of it and pay it off. Whether it's boosting you income through a better job or a side hustle, selling stuff online or having a yard sale, find a way to make extra money or cut expenses to funnel more dollars toward your credit card debt.
Rossman made it clear that there were two extremes found in this study. Twenty-five percent of people with debt will die in debt. While that's down from 30 percent last year, it's up from 9 percent in 2013. But 34 percent plan to conquer credit card debt at one point. That's up from 14 percent in 2014.