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An increasing number of older Americans are filing for bankruptcy

Most people in Massachusetts hope to retire someday. But, for an increasing number of people, the retirement years are becoming years of financial challenges. One statistic that reflects this is the rising number of elderly Americans who are filing for bankruptcy.

Data from the Consumer Bankruptcy Project at the University of Illinois Law School show that in the past 25 years the percentage of bankruptcies filed by persons aged 65 or older has quadrupled. The trend has been apparent for some time, and it now appears to be accelerating.

The reasons for the increase in bankruptcy filings by elderly Americans are unclear. One professor familiar with the data says more research is needed. Some possible reasons include the number of older Americans who are helping their adult children with living expenses, and an increasing number of parents and grandparents with student loan debt, often taken out to pay tuition for a child or grandchild. Other causes in individual cases include medical expenses, forced early retirement, the death of a spouse and financial exploitation of the elderly.

The good news is that personal bankruptcy does not carry the stigma it once did. More people are becoming aware that personal financial fortunes are often controlled by economic factors that are beyond their control.

People who have worked hard all their lives should not have to live their retirement years in debt. A Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing can help older people get free of debt and allow them to focus on enjoying life again.

Source: News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana, IL), "A new age of debt," Ben Zigterman, Feb. 12, 2017

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