More older Americans are in debt, and filing for bankruptcy

Personal Finance


The share of bankruptcy filers who are older than 65 is the highest it’s ever been.

As the cost of living outpaces incomes, health-care costs rise and debt swells, there’s been more than a twofold increase in the rate of older Americans filing for bankruptcy, according to a new study. “For an increasing number of older Americans, their golden years are fraught with economic risks,” it reads.

Debt among older Americans is rising fast. In 2016, the average debt in families in which the head of the household is age 75 or older was $36,757. That is up from $30,288 in 2010, according to a recent report by the nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute in Washington.

When Fay was laid off from her job in her 70s, she contemplated retirement. A painful reality hit when she realized she didn’t have a nest egg that could cover her expenses or current debt.

“I see myself with no house,” said Fay, who agreed to be interviewed only if her last name was not used because she is afraid of collection agencies hunting her down. “Living on the street.”

Fay has $50,000 in outstanding student loans from when she had gone back to school in her 50s to get her MBA. She also has a mortgage on her house in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, and another $50,000 in credit card debt.



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