Bankruptcy Rates Rising for Seniors

By Lori Woehrle / Posted on 02 July 2008

Older Americans — those 55 year or older — are filing for bankruptcy in greater numbers, and the bankruptcy rate among those 65 years or older has more than doubled over the past 17 years.

A June 2008 study of bankruptcy activity from 1991 to 2007 found that older Americans, who made up about eight percent of those filing for bankruptcy in 1991, were more than 22 percent of that group by 2007.

“While the bulk of bankruptcy filers are in their 30s and 40s, the financial landscape for the oldest and youngest generations has changed considerably,” said Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law School professor who compiled the study. “Those ages 34 or younger experienced the greatest decrease in bankruptcy filings, comprising nearly half (45.5%) in 1991 to just over a quarter (26.1%) in 2007 of all bankrupt debtors.

“Research found that by 2007, the median age for bankruptcy filers had increased to 43 years old in 2007 from 36.5 years old in 1991,” Warren said. “A declining economy, increasing healthcare costs, and a general lack of retirement preparedness puts older Americans and their families at greater risk for bankruptcy and continued financial stress.”

Funding for the report was provided by AARP, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the University of Michigan Research Initiative Grant Program and the Harvard Law School Dean’s Fund.

–Lori Woehrle


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