Senior Debt and Bankruptcy Rising
Recent studies have shown that Americans age 55 and older are having an increasingly difficult time
paying their debts. One study, performed by the Washington-based Employee Benefits Research
Institute, showed that between 1992 and 2007, households of those who were in their mid-50s or
older more than doubled their average debt load to about $70,000 each. During that same time, the
number of households that held consumer or housing debt rose from about 53 percent to 63 percent.
As more and more seniors struggled with mortgage payments after retirement and ballooning credit
card payments, the number of seniors filing for bankruptcy has also increased dramatically. Between
1991 and 2007, the number of Americans age 65 and older who filed for bankruptcy ballooned by 150
percent. For Americans age 75 to 84, the rate of bankruptcy filing increased by a massive 433 percent.
Many of those filing have cited growing credit card and medical debts as their primary reason for
seeking bankruptcy protection. The average credit card debt that Americans age 65 and older had in
2008 was just over $10,200. In 2005 that number was significantly lower, at just over $8,100.
Other seniors are struggling with paying back student loans that either they themselves, or their
children, incurred. It's estimated that Americans age 50 and older owe about 17 percent of the $870
billion in unpaid student loans. Many of these parents signed as cosigners for their children's loans. As
their children were unable to find employment because of the slow economy, the elderly parents have
been left with student loan payments.
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