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To reduce risk of bankruptcy, plan ahead for retirement

Written by Diane Archer

A new survey by the Consumer Bankruptcy project reveals that a growing number of older adults find themselves unable to pay for their basic necessities. As the social safety net shrinks, retirees are being forced to choose between their prescription drugs and their mortgage payments. Improving and expanding Medicare to cover everyone would allow everyone to get the care they need.  Without Medicare for all, to reduce the risk of bankruptcy, Americans need all the more to plan ahead for retirement

Researchers found that retirees today are three times more likely to file for bankruptcy than retirees 27 years ago. Today, 3.6 older adults between 65 and 74, out of every 1,000, file for bankruptcy. In 1991, 1.2 people between 65 and 74, out of 1,000, filed for bankruptcy.

Older adults also represent a greater proportion of people who file for bankruptcy. Today, almost one in eight people who file for bankruptcy (12.2 percent) are older adults. Back in 1991, only one in fifty people who filed for bankruptcy (2.1 percent) were older adults.

Unlike retirees in 1991, whose employers were likely  to provide financially for them in retirement, retirees today are less likely to be able to depend on pensions. They are also less likely to have adequate savings to cover far higher health care costs. About one in four people over 65 have liquid savings of $3,260. The typical person over 65 has $60,600 in liquid savings.

About three out of five older adults said that high medical expenses played a role in their bankruptcy. Out-of-pocket health care costs with Medicare average over $5,000 a year; people with the costliest complex conditions typically spend over $20,000 out of pocket. Two out of three older adults attribute their bankruptcies to a reduction in their income.

People’s incomes pre-retirement and in retirement are not what they used to be. New retirement savings programs, such as 401(k) plans and IRAs, do not offer the same generous annual incomes that defined benefit plans–which provide guaranteed annual income–once did. Moreover, retirees today need to wait two years longer, until 67, for full Social Security benefits, than retirees in the past. And, their out-of-pocket costs have grown substantially.

Older adults have few places to turn for help. They struggle to get a job to pay unexpected bills. Two jobs are hard to come by. So, too often they end up in bankruptcy court. What’s all the more concerning is that, for every older adult who ends up in bankruptcy court, there are several others nearing bankruptcy, in financial distress.

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1 Comment

  • I tried being ready for it. Had a nice pension nest egg invested, and lost it all in the crash 10 years ago, so I’m still left with nothing now that I really need it at 72. The problem is nobody cares, we bailed out the banks, so they are still fine, but not one of those thieves were ever punished, and it is so frustrating! It’s useless trying to fight for anything in this country anymore. The wealthy corporate capitalists always win and the working class always loses. Very fed up with the double standards and inequality in this country where I was born, that used to be a great place 50 years ago.

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