NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Seniors Falling Into Debt

April 25, 2002

Many older Americans are piling on debt. Faced with low rates of returns on their investments, they are charging everything from medications to food and other consumer items on their credit cards.

  • Nearly 23 percent of seniors 75 or older confronted a debt burden in excess of 40 percent of their income in 1998.
  • That compares with nearly 14 percent who did so in the 50 to 64 age group that year.
  • Among those 65 to 74, nearly 18 percent had such a heavy debt burden.
  • From 1992 to 2000, the average debt per household age 65 or older went from $7,690 to $20,302 -- a 164 percent increase.

Bankruptcy filings among those 65 or older jumped 244 percent between 1991 and 2001. That compares to a decline of 4 percent among those under age 25.

These heavy financial obligations often mean delaying retirement and seeking the assistance of credit counselors.

Source: Christine Dugas, "American Seniors Rack Up Debt Like Never Before," USA Today, April 25, 2002.

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