Many Older Americans Overwhelmed by Debt

There are many surprising trends among older Americans. These include the rise of “grey divorce” for couples over 50, but there are none sadder than the skyrocketing numbers of older people who are in financial trouble. According to researchers, notable figures in this trend include:

  • The number of people age 55 to 64 declaring bankruptcy increased by 66% between 1991 and 2016.
  • The number of people age 65 to 74 declaring bankruptcy increased by 204% between 1991 and 2016.
  • About 12% of all bankruptcies are filed by people age 65 or older, which is up from 2% in 1991.

Why are so many older people filing?

For many, the short answer to this question is “medical debt.” Medical expenses cause 60% of all bankruptcies for those 65 and older. This illustrates the cost of medical treatment, but it also indicates the challenges that individuals who have retired and/or on a fixed income can have a nest egg taken away by one unexpected illness. Unlike their children and younger generations, there are fewer employment options and the window to earn and save closes pretty quickly after 65 in many cases.

Declaring bankruptcy is often the best option for recovery

Whether it is liquidating many assets as part of Chapter 7 or strategically restructuring a debt using Chapter 13, bankruptcy is a viable option that often enables the person or couple filing to remain in their home while wiping away the medical debt.

The financial circumstances of those filing will vary — this is why it is best to discuss options with a knowledgeable bankruptcy lawyer. These legal professionals can provide guidance that often enables older debtors to have a fresh start rather than continue to suffer under the burden of debt they are unable to pay.