Many older adults in California struggle with financial hardships, and increasing numbers of them are filing for bankruptcy. The Consumer Bankruptcy Project, which collects data about bankruptcy filings, reported that 12% of filers in 2016 were age 65 or older. A generation ago in 1991, only 2% of filers belonged to this age group. Debt and inadequate retirement savings are the chief reasons why older adults are declaring bankruptcy.
Debt has become a much larger issue for older adults since 1989, when only 20% of people 75 and over owed debts. As of 2016, a U.S. Federal Reserve survey found that nearly 50% of older adults had debts. Rising health care costs contribute to their inability to meet living expenses, which often results in credit card use.
During the same period that debt became more common among older adults, their ability to save for retirement diminished. Many employers replaced traditional pensions with 401(k) retirement plans that shifted all investment risk to employees. The decline of trade unions also caused wages to stagnate and deprive people of the ability to save for retirement. A researcher of retirement issues said that only about 60% of people had personal savings to support their retirement. The Social Security and Medicare systems were designed to supplement personal savings. When people have nothing else, they must delay retirement or face the difficulties of living on a limited fixed income during their elder years.
A person who sees no realistic way to increase his or her personal income or pay back debts could speak with an attorney. Filing for bankruptcy could result in the discharge of credit card or medical debts. A lawyer could assist someone with submitting financial disclosures to the court and resolve any issues that might come up with creditors during the process.