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More Seniors Burdened by Sizable Outstanding Debts

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These days, there are considerable financial burdens being borne by consumers of all ages, but numerous older Americans are now dealing with problems that previous generations may not have.

Consumers aged 50 and older are now carrying significant debt burdens across a number of accounts, including student loans, mortgages and credit cards, according to a report from McClatchy Newspapers. A number of reports from various researchers have all found that debts among older Americans have been on the rise in the last several years.

For instance, the Employee Benefit Research Institute recently found that between 1992 and 2007, the percentage of households with people in their mid-50s and up that carried some amount of both housing and consumer debt increased to 63 percent from just 53.8 percent, the report said. And among households with people between 55 and 64, when people are supposed to be making the final push in their retirement savings, that proportion increased to 81.7 percent.

In all, the EBRI found that the average amount of debt carried by consumers aged 55 and older increased more than two-fold in that 15-year period, rising to a total of $70,370, the report said. Other, similar surveys indicate there may be many reasons for this increase.

For instance, public policy institute Demos recently reported that the amount of credit card debt carried by Americans aged 65 and older rose to $10,235 in 2008, up from $8,138 in just 2005, the report said. Further, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York recently reported that of the nation’s $870 billion in outstanding student loans, 17 percent – $147.9 billion in all – is held by adults age 50 and up.

Despite these financial difficulties, many consumers are now retiring anyway, the report said. Others are choosing to delay retirement for a year or two so that they can better build their savings. Nonetheless, anecdotal evidence suggests that more consumers in their 60s and older and are now seeking the help of credit counseling companies, and many are doing so with as much as $60,000 in non-mortgage debt.

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Fortunately, the recent regulations related to consumer debt and the economic downturn combined to convince millions of Americans it was time to change their attitudes towards high balances, and many have made significant efforts to reduce these obligations in the last few years.

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