More than one in five Americans with debt believe they will die that way, according to a study from CreditCards.com, an agency that helps people manage credit cards.
The group's survey ( tbtim.es/sze) found that 21 percent of Americans with debt don't believe they will ever pay it off, up from 18 percent who felt that way last year and 9 percent who did in 2013.
While the number of Americans who feel they'll never shed their debt is climbing, so, too, are the number of people without any debt, the CreditCards.com survey found. About 22 percent of Americans are debt-free, up from 14 percent last year.
The juxtaposition of these two trends shows "America continues to polarize into a nation of haves and have-nots when it comes to debt," the group said in a news release.
"It's a troubling divide," Matt Schulz, CreditCards.com's senior industry analyst, said in the release. "While it's great to see more people freeing themselves from debt, the fact that more and more people still feel trapped and hopeless means that Americans still have a major problem with debt."
While most people with debt don't believe they'll die owing money to someone, almost half say they'll be in debt until at least age 61.
Perhaps surprisingly, millennials with debt are the most optimistic that they can climb out of it before they die: Only 11 percent think they will never get out of debt.
Some other tidbits from the study:
• People with children are more likely to say they will remain in debt than those without kids — 23 percent to 17 percent.
• More minorities say they'll be unable to become debt-free than white people — 24 percent to 16 percent.
• A greater portion of Republicans believe that they'll stay in debt than Democrats — 25 percent to 14 percent.
Schulz said people can start to climb out of debt by creating sensible budgets, tracking their expenses, seeking out zero-percent-interest balance-transfer offers and negotiating lower interest rates on current credit cards.