NEW YORK — What would you do to be completely debt-free? A new survey finds Americans would give up social media for a year (32%), spend a night on a remote island (31%), and even go a month without internet access (29%). According to the poll of 2,000 U.S. adults, the average person feels they could only stay debt-free for eight-and-a-half weeks (less than 3 months) before accruing new debt.
The research also measured people’s confidence in their ability to remain out of debt, revealing only 38 percent feel “very confident” in this regard. The most uncertain respondents (384) shared some of the reasons, including the rising cost of living (54%), unexpected expenses (46%), rising interest rates (29%), not having enough support from others (20%), and feeling the need to spend to keep up with others (16%).
People’s biggest debt hurdles include credit card debt (57%), mortgages (30%), automobile loans (30%), and medical debt (28%). Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Beyond Finance for National Financial Freedom Day, the survey also found the average person has $54,767 worth of debt, with 56 percent saying they owe more for necessities than for “nice-to-haves.”
For some, their debt has stood in the way of making significant life changes, such as buying a home (33%), a car (30%), and setting up their child’s savings (24%).
What would people do if they woke up debt-free?
Thirty-two percent would add money to their emergency fund, while 27 percent would purchase their dream home and 26 percent would take a long-awaited vacation. Others would “pursue a different career,” “start my own business,” finance their children’s education, and “help my parents with their debts.”
“Debt can sometimes deter people’s short- and long-term goals for themselves and their families,” says a spokesperson for Beyond Finance in a statement. “Learning to manage it effectively can be life-changing, but 49 percent admit to feeling anxious about their debt, which may make it challenging to focus on finding solutions.”
What can make debt stressful for many? Interest rates (24%), the inability to pay it off (22%), and seeing how much they owe increase (20%). Not all debt is created equal, however, as nearly half the poll (48%) believes some of the debt they had taken on was worth it. That includes a mortgage (38%), car loan (33%), and home improvement or repairs (28%).
People are also seeking support to manage their debt, with about a third (31%) crediting their family as being the most helpful resource. However, only 29 percent are “very confident” in their ability to pay off their current debts on time — including fewer women than men (19% vs. 41%). Four in 10 (41%) also say it will take them years to be debt-free.
“Choose a debt resolution program that’s personalized to your needs and helps you keep track of your progress. Seeing your debt gradually diminish is a great way to stay motivated on the path to becoming debt-free,” the spokesperson adds.
This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 general population Americans was commissioned by Beyond Finance between June 9 and June 12, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).