The American dream has always been to work hard, own a home and have a comfortable retirement for old age. Unfortunately for a growing number of Americans this dream is quickly becoming a nightmare. Many older Americans are facing the possibility of bankruptcy instead of a comfortable retirement.
The signs of potential trouble — vanishing pensions, soaring medical expenses, inadequate savings — have been building for years. Now, new research sheds light on the scope of the problem: The rate of people 65 and older filing for bankruptcy is three times what it was in 1991, the study found, and the same group accounts for a far greater share of all filers.
According to the study part of the blame falls on the individuals themselves. It has been suggested that one of the driving forces in the surge is a three-decade shift of financial risk from government and employers to individuals, who are bearing an ever-greater responsibility for their own financial well-being as the social safety net shrinks.
But there are also other factors at play. The transfer has come in the form of, among other things, people who are waiting longer for full Social Security benefits, the replacement of employer-provided pensions with 401(k) savings plans and many are encountering more out of pocket expenses on health care. There is also the problem of declining incomes, whether in retirement or leading up to it, compound the challenge.
The study goes on to explain that older people whose finances are precarious have few places to turn. “When the costs of aging are off-loaded onto a population that simply does not have access to adequate resources, something has to give.”
With mounting medical costs and the cost of living in general going up, older retired Americans are facing an unsure future. What the answer to these problems is remains to be seen but for the time being, things don’t look too good.