Americans have been chipping away at their debt, but ever so slowly. A new report by Northwestern Mutual found that adults who carry debt owe an average of $26,621, exclusive of mortgages, and 13% said they expect to be in debt the rest of their lives.

The good news is that the total average debt among those who have it has been declining over the years. It was $29,800 in 2019 and just over $38,000 in 2018. But this was before the coronavirus outbreak.

“As Covid-19 continues to have far-reaching economic effects on people's daily lives, and the full scope of its impact comes more into focus, it's reasonable to expect these numbers will increase as people start to rely more heavily on credit in order to try and adapt to their new normal," said Christian Mitchell, executive vice president and chief customer officer at Northwestern Mutual, in a statement.

The “2020 Planning & Progress Study,” conducted by the Harris Poll between February 12 and February 25 and including 2,650 American adults, found that nearly three-fourths (74%) of Americans reported having some debt, and 33% spend fully one-third of their monthly income paying it off.

Credit card bills (22%) and mortgages (21%) are the leading sources of debt for Americans, the report noted. Car loans (8%) and personal education loans (8%) followed as the next highest sources of debt.

Of the 42% Americans who report holding credit card debt, the average amount is $5,400, and of that debt, more than half (52%) went toward paying for necessities such as rent, utilities and groceries, the study noted. Thirty-six percent went to discretionary expenses such as entertainment, vacations or dining out; 11% was used for educational expenses.

The study also found that 30% of respondents either or always adhere to paying the minimum amount due on their credit card bills, just covering the interest without paying down any principal. Furthermore, 33% pay greater than a 15% interest rate on their cards, and 9% do not know what interest rate they are paying.

And while nearly two-thirds indicated they will hold their credit card debt for one to six years,12% expect to be in credit card debt between 11 and 20 years, and 7% expect their credit card debt to last more than 20 years.

The study also found that Americans have regrets about how they have handled their credit cards. Sixty-one percent said if given the choice they would have changed the way they used credit cards in the past; 56% would have limited their use to primarily cover necessities; 37% would have gained a better understanding of interest rates; and 23% would have waited to get a card until they really needed one.

More than half of respondents (58%) said carrying debt has had a substantial or moderate impact on their ability to achieve long-term financial security. Additionally, many indicated that debt hampers their ability to reach major financial milestones. It forced them to delay significant purchases (said 36%), put off saving for retirement (said 29%), delay buying a home (said 18%), defer having children (said 8%) and delay marriage (said 7%).