Your funeral guest book may include a pile of overdue bills.

AP Photo/Richard Drew, File
AP Photo/Richard Drew, File

In a new survey of debt-ridden Americans, 21 percent believe they will die in debt. That's up 3 percent from last year and up sharply from just 9 percent in 2013.

Even among those who believe they can get above water before death, the outlook isn't so bright. Nearly half say they'll remain in debt until at least age 61.

"Hopelessness can be paralyzing," said Matt Schulz,'s senior industry analyst, in a press release. "But the reality is that people have more power of their debt than they realize. The most important thing is to simply take action - even small ones - to start knocking that debt down."

For more detail on those actions, we spoke with Maury Randall, chair of the finance department at Rider University.

To get out of debt, Randall said the best approach is living within your means.

"Perhaps one can find ways of having maybe a more modest lifestyle that doesn't involve spending as much as they had previously," Randall said. "There are probably certain areas of discretionary spending that you can cut back."

For example, eat at home rather than at a restaurant. When buying a car, don't add all the bells and whistles. And you can still look fashionable without wearing top-of-the-line designer outfits.

But if radical spending is a must, and so is borrowing, Randall said it'd be smart to steer clear of credit cards.

"You want to use credit cards because it's handy and convenient, but at the same time, to incur credit card debt that you're not paying off is very, very expensive," he said. "If you can find some other method rather than using your credit card, you should seriously consider that."

This can be as simple as turning to friends or family for help.

According to Randall, getting out of debt can make you feel much better mentally and psychologically.

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