Retired and broke: Why retirees are declaring bankruptcy

Monday, October 25, 2010
By Paul Martin

Reuters.com

For more and more seniors, retirement doesn’t mean a debt-free life of leisure. An increasing number of Americans aged 65 and older are declaring bankruptcy, according to a recent study by John Pottow, professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School.

Those aged 65 and older represented seven percent of bankruptcy filers in 2007, a mind-boggling jump from 1991. They are the “fastest-growing age demographic,” according to Pottow’s study.

What’s the culprit for so much debt? Credit cards. Two-thirds of Americans who filed for bankruptcy said credit cards were the key reason for their financial problems, according to Pottow’s research. Besides having more credit card debt compared with younger bankruptcy filers, 44.8 percent of those aged 65 and older also had more plastic in their wallets. “They’re using credit cards as a maladaptive coping mechanism,” Pottow says.

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