Thompson Law Group, P.C.

Study finds more elderly people file for personal bankruptcy


Pennsylvanians who are facing substantial debt with no clear way of paying it will inevitably have concerns about what the future holds. This is especially true for older Americans 65 and above. For them, the idea of not paying their debts can be a frightening thought with feelings of failure and a belief they are not adhering to their responsibilities. However, as time passes, more and more older people are seeking to use bankruptcy to restructure debt and get back on stronger financial ground. Recent research indicates just how many older people are turning to personal bankruptcy.

The number of people 65 and older filing for bankruptcy has multiplied by three since 1991. In the study, participants between the ages if 19 and 92 filled out questionnaires. It also examined almost 900 cases of personal bankruptcy. The number of bankruptcies has grown by 200 to 300 percent since that year. Many issues are at the root of this financial struggle. Included is medical debt, a delay in receiving full benefits from Social Security, pensions being replaced by retirement plans like 401(k), and a reduction in income.

Health problems have risen as time has passed with more people suffering from diabetes and obesity. Also, money is being spent on assisting children and parents. Cosigning student loans is leaving older people vulnerable, so they are unintended victims of the student loan crisis. Not having the savings to make it after they have retired leaves people vulnerable to financial problems and the worry that they will not maintain a home or have enough for basic living expenses, not to mention unexpected healthcare costs.

It is common for older people to resist filing for bankruptcy even if it is the best option because they are fearful of the perceived stigma attached to it. They might believe they will not retain their home and other property. Some do not own anything of value and do not understand that Chapter 7 can help them clear their debts are start over. Others might not grasp that Chapter 13 protects their home and car. A law firm that understands the details and concerns when dealing with debt problems can explain the benefits of bankruptcy and help with the process. Older people facing overwhelming debt should call a lawyer to discuss and move forward with their case.

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