A Growing Problem for Seniors: Bankruptcy
Social Security

A Growing Problem for Seniors: Bankruptcy

© Charles Platiau / Reuters

The New York Times reports on new research that suggests a growing problem for seniors: “The rate of people 65 and older filing for bankruptcy is three times what it was in 1991, the study found, and the same group accounts for a far greater share of all filers,” writes Tara Siegel Bernard. “Driving the surge, the study suggests, is a three-decade shift of financial risk from government and employers to individuals, who are bearing an ever-greater responsibility for their own financial well-being as the social safety net shrinks.”

Households headed by seniors accounted for 12.2 percent of bankruptcy filings made in 2016, or roughly 100,000 of 800,000 filings. That’s up from 2.1 percent in 1991, according to the study, which used data from the Consumer Bankruptcy Project.

The aging of the population explains only a small portion of the increase, according to the report’s authors, who say that “older Americans report they are struggling with increased financial risks, namely inadequate income and unmanageable costs of healthcare.”

From the study’s conclusion:

"Absent significant policy changes that reassume the risks of aging and effectively insure the financial stability of older Americans, our data suggest that the trend of an aging bankruptcy population will continue. In 2015, almost 15 percent of the U.S. population was 65 and over. By 2050, almost a quarter of Americans, 88 million, will be over 65 (U.S. Census 2016). If current bankruptcy trends among seniors continue, our bankruptcy courts will be flooded with financially broken retirees."