Dying with debt: A dirty little retirement secret

Credit card debt is becoming a problem for some seniors.
More and more older adults are racking up debt on credit cards… is debt becoming a problem for the Greatest Generation? -SP

By Cindy Perman, CNBC.com

Retired Americans are racking up credit-card debt like never before, be it for vacations or medical expenses, and a surprising number have no intention of paying it off before they die.
Nearly 40% of retired Americans said they’ve accumulated credit-card debt in their twilight years — and aren’t worried about paying it off in their lifetime, according to a survey released by CESI Debt Solutions.

“At the end of the day, some people of a certain age say, ‘It’s too late in the game for me to do anything about it. I can’t win. So I’m just going to stop playing the game,'” said Neil Ellington, executive vice president at CESI.

This may come as a surprise to younger generations who thought their parents, the so-called Greatest Generation, were more responsible than youngsters raised in an era of easy money, a culture of credit.

But remember that this is the generation that frowns upon talking about money — and certainly would be embarrassed by any potential money problems. Add in a recession that slashed many retirement accounts in half and that leaves a generation sinking deeper into debt, with a diminishing timeframe to do anything about it — and too much pride to talk about it.

“Most people are too scared to talk about their financial problems, especially in their ‘Golden Years,'” Ellington said. “Retirement is supposed to be all about enjoying the time you’ve been saving up for, and the reality is that many people couldn’t save enough,” he said.

And yet, that didn’t stop them from retiring.

More than half of those surveyed had saved less than $50,000 — and many of that group said they’d saved absolutely nothing — yet they retired anyway. Just 4% said they had delayed their retirement due to debt.

“They get to a certain age and they feel privileged,” Ellington said. “They say, ‘I’m going to go on that trip even though I have to put it on my credit card.'”

Read more at USA Today’s website

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