Freedom from indebtedness has become harder and harder for seniors to achieve in recent years thanks to increases in heath care and other costs. Compounding the problem is the economic recession and market collapse which has shrunk most seniors’ asset portfolios and made employment for this group harder to find.
A complete lack of debt is not a requirement for retirees–in fact, some are content to pay mortgages they have well in hand, while others prefer to use credit or loans for purchases such as second homes, vehicles or expensive vacations. This trend toward more debt for seniors is cause for concern, however, and the admonition remains for seniors on fixed incomes to stay away from heavy debt.
Debt counseling offices, such as the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Black Hills, in Rapid City, S.D., see a steady stream of older people who have taken on too much debt. Here, women in their 70s and 80s attend required counseling sessions while they prepare to file for bankruptcy.
Terry Mills, a manager at the center, has seen hundreds of retirees file for bankruptcy and says seniors make up the largest demographic group at the center. Many are in their current situation, at least in part, due to medical bills. “It’s very sad. They worked their whole lives and here they come and they have to file bankruptcy — this is how you end your life. It just tears your heart out when people come in here on walkers,” says Mills.