Watch Out: Debt Crisis Has Tripled for Senior Citizens

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Troubling new data shows that the bankruptcy rate for the elderly has tripled in the last 25 years.

Seniors between the ages of 65 to 74 years old are filing at a rate of 3.6 per thousand every year. This means that about 4 percent of the elderly will file for bankruptcy over a 10-year period. The average debt for the bankrupt is just over $100,000, which is about triple their income.

This rise in elderly bankruptcy is part of a trend of increased debt among older Americans. During the last 25 years, the percentage of those over 55 with debt has risen from 54 percent to 68 percent. Economic factors contributing to this rise in debt include investment losses during the Great Recession of 2008, artificially low interest rates imposed by government after the Great Recession and poor job growth resulting from bad economic policies after the Great Recession. There has also been a significant increase in non-bankruptable student loan debt as seniors had to stand good for guarantees of the debts of their children who could not find work in the Obama era economy.

There is some hope on the horizon that there may be relief coming for the rising epidemic of senior debt and bankruptcy. The reversal of bad economic policies in recent years has brought a remarkable economic turnaround. The stock market has reached record highs and home values have rebounded. Interest earned by seniors on their savings is increasing. There are now more jobs than job-seekers, creating openings for seniors to continue to contribute their valuable skills and experience in meaningful work.

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For those still trapped in debt bondage, we recommend that they face the problem earlier in life. A 55-year old can more easily recover from a bankruptcy or debt restructuring than a 70-year-old. Take an honest look at your situation, accept responsibility for your situation, but then accept forgiveness for your mistakes and, yes, even for the debts you cannot pay. Remember that it was God who required forgiveness of debt every seven years, forming the basis of our bankruptcy laws. (Deut. 15:1-18), and it is He who advises us to seek forgiveness and release from bondage to debt (Prov. 6:1-11).

So do not wait to get your finances in order. Even so, if you missed the boat at age 55, it is never too late to be set free from debt bondage.

You are never too old to take control of your life.

Ron Allen is a Christian businessman, CPA and author who serves in local, national and international ministries, spreading a message of reconciliation to God, to men and between believers. He is founder of the International Star Bible Society, telling how the heavens declare the glory of God; the Emancipation Network, which helps people escape from financial bondage; and co-founder with his wife, Pat, of Corporate Prayer Resources, dedicated to helping intercessors.

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