Thursday, February 18, 2016


The age old question politicians like to throw at the audience is "are you better off today than your parents were?" If it's yes, then vote for me! By the looks of it this is not getting much traction with the Establishment politicians; Republican or Democrat.

In 2016 that questions takes on multiple meaning because, not only are today's generation worse off than there parents, their parents are becoming worse off than their parents.

The crash of 2008 devastated many Americans who were not members of the 1% community. Nor were they part of the bailout that went right to Wall Street and completely ignored Main Street. The recovery passed them right by and they are still feeling the pain today.

In 2015, NCOA surveyed aging network professionals on their clients’ debt, and how it impacts these clients’ economic security. The results of this survey, combined with data from several national surveys of consumer finances and debt, are featured in the issue brief, Older Adults & Debt: Trends, Trade-offs, and Tools to Help.

According to the Survey of Consumer Finances, senior households with any debt increased from right around 50% in 1989, to just over 61% in 2013, as illustrated in the chart below.

Graph showing increase in senior households with debt, rising from 44.4% in 1989 to 61.3% in 2013
Median total debt for older adult households with debt was $40,900 in 2013 – more thanDOUBLE what it was in 2001 (see below).

Chart showing rise in median total debt among senior headed households, with a median of $40,900 in 2013
Medical debt

Increasingly, medical debt poses the most significant barrier to economic well-being.

More than 84% of people aged 65+ are coping with at least one chronic condition, and often more as they age.

A study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine revealed that out-of-pocket medical expenditures in the five years prior to an individual’s death totaled more than $38,000, leaving 1 in 4 seniors approaching bankruptcy.

    Credit card debt

    Another common source of debt among senior households is credit cards.

    In 2001, approximately 27% of senior households held credit card balances; by 2013, more than 32% did.

    One in four senior households with any credit card debt had a balance of at least $7,200 in 2013.

      Trade-offs in dealing with debt

      The NCOA survey found that seniors often make trade-offs to save money in the short term that can be harmful to their long-term health and finances. Among aging network professionals surveyed:

      23% regularly encounter seniors forgoing needed home/car repairs, which increases the risk of accidents and falls–the leading cause of injuries among seniors.

      Nearly 15% regularly encounter seniors cutting pills, which can limit their effectiveness.

      Just under 14% regularly see seniors skip meals, which can lead to nutrient deficiency.

        Download the full report