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New report raises concerns re older Americans' financial health

The official statement from the economy watchers is that the Great Recession is over. That may come as something of a surprise for a lot of older Americans in Arkansas and the rest of the country.

According to new data from the Census Bureau, debt levels have been increasing more for America's seniors than for any other generational demographic. Figures released a few weeks ago indicate that median debt levels for households led by someone 65 or older increased by about 120 percent over the past ten years.

The collapse of the residential real estate market receives much of the blame. Experts say that not only did a lot of homes of older Americans slide under water with the recession, but many of them had not just a mortgage to pay, but borrowed heavily against their home equity when things were riding high.

Added to that is the fact that a lot of those folks saw retirement savings take a hit during the recession and were unable to maintain steady savings rates during the worst of the slowdown. All that combined has started to spark concern that the financial health of our older population is so bad that it threatens their dreams of comfortable retirement.

Even the stimulus efforts by the Federal Reserve are seen as a problem. Readers will recall that the Fed has been holding interest rates to record low levels. That means that returns on the safest investments -- the ones most likely to attract seniors -- don't deliver much in the way of returns.

All this suggests that not all boats are being floated equally by the rising tide of the recovering economy. Finding methods of adequately managing debt remains a challenge for many. The good news is that there are options, including consideration of bankruptcy. And individuals can get help exploring their options by consulting an experienced attorney.

Source: Yahoo Finance, "Older Households Loading Up on Debt," Neil Shah, The Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2013

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