Elderly Americans struggling under the weight of credit card debt and medical bills are increasingly resorting to bankruptcy in retirement.
A slew of recent data highlights the problem:
A 2010 study from the University of Michigan Law School, called The Rise in Elder Bankruptcy Filings, found that those 65 and older are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population seeking bankruptcy protection
The Washington D.C.-based public policy group Demos reports that Americans 65 and above who carry a balance on their credit cards owe an average of $10,235 — up 26% from 2005.
Older debtors who filed for bankruptcy owed a median $22,562 to credit card companies, the Michigan study showed
“The findings are both striking and ominous,” says John Pottow, author of the University of Michigan study. “While multiple factors, such as health problems and medical debts, contribute to elders’ financial distress, the dominant force appears to be overwhelming burdens related to credit cards.”
Pottow’s study found that elder debtors carry 50% more credit card debt than younger debtors, and seniors cite credit card interest and fees as a reason for their bankruptcy filings 50% more frequently.
Unfortunately, the rise in bankruptcy filings among the elderly isn’t merely a recent phenomenon, or a reflection of the Great Recession. Even before the recession hit, seniors were struggling.
Sorry for the short hiatus from blogging! We’re back with new and improved content! Check out this great story from the Austin-American Statesman’s Jobs section, published this last Sunday. Features AGE staffers Anna Gatti and Sara Peralta!
By Mauri Elbel Marketing Publications Writer
Published: 3:05 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010
Ed Myers will turn 80 in November but the Central Austin resident refuses to let age slow him down.
Though Myers began receiving retirement benefits at age 62, he has never stopped working. Instead, he supplements his income with three part-time jobs: he works three days a week in a sales position with local computer service company Gravity Systems and he’s a swim instructor and lifeguard at the YMCA’s Town Lake branch and a professional model for television commercials and print advertisements.
“I have always worked — I enjoy working,” said Myers, who also volunteers for the YMCA’s Friday Senior Retreat Program, a social and fitness program for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. “I like to stay busy, but I also do this to supplement our income with the economy the way it is right now.”
Myers and his wife sold their two outdoor recreation stores in Beaufort, N.C., and Jackson, Tenn., prior to moving to Austin nearly a decade ago. For seven years, he worked as a full-time marketing manager at a local architectural lighting design studio until it ran into financial trouble in 2009.
“Things have gotten more expensive, and the extra money helps us to do the things we wouldn’t be able to afford to do ordinarily, like traveling,” he said. “But I would go crazy if I didn’t work. I never really retired — you stay younger and healthier if you keep on going.”