Politics

The rate of older Americans filing for bankruptcy is rising steeply

Republicans continue to make America great again, if “make America great again” means driving older Americans into bankruptcy.

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.

Driving the surge, the study suggests, 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.

The drive to strip pensions, break unions, and underpay workers doesn’t just mean that older American workers are finding themselves unable to retire. It means that even the many Americans who continue to work until they drop aren’t necessarily able to make ends meet. Still-rising healthcare costs are dooming others (over half cited medical expenses as reason for bankruptcy), and bankruptcy court offers the only potential relief.

But bankruptcy court can only provide a buffer against past debts, it can’t increase incomes. And it’s not just the 65 and older crowd seeing bankruptcy rates increase: Americans from 55-64 are also filing in increased numbers. Most alarming of all might be the razor-thin safety margin older Americans are now operating under:

The median household led by someone 65 or older had liquid savings of $60,600 in 2016, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, whereas the bottom 25 percent of households had saved at most $3,260.

That’s … not much. And it’s only going to get worse as Republicans seek to further slash Social Security and other safety net programs.


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