Recently the New York Times reported on the surge of bankruptcy filings among retirees. You can find the article here. Retirees now face the perfect storm of vanishing pensions, longer waits for social security benefits, and surging healthcare costs.
Over the past decade of representing consumers in bankruptcy, I can say one of the most heartbreaking things is seeing people who struggled and saved for years and thought they were set for retirement realize that they cannot afford to relax and enjoy their golden years. Too often people delay retirement and work themselves to the bone because they simply cannot afford to live off of their retirement and pay their bills. I have seen people liquidate retirement accounts, mortgage their homes, and take out predatory payday loans just so they can keep their head above water. Because of their fixed income and the high interest rates and fees attached to their debts, many retirees find themselves trapped making minimum payments with no realistic opportunity to pay off their debts. Bankruptcy offers these people a way to live within their means and enjoy their retirement, but often those who need the relief of bankruptcy the most are the most reluctant to file.
They tend to be old-school, they pay their bills, they follow the rules, they want to do whats right, and they expect their creditors to treat them fairly. Unfortunately most retirees soon realize their creditors won’t play fair, won’t work with them, and frankly don’t care whether or not seniors can afford their prescriptions or their mortgage payments. Most retirees come devastated, not understanding why their creditors won’t work with them, and I don’t have a better answer than ‘because they don’t have to.’ Many feel that bankruptcy is a moral failing, that it means they are bad people, but that is far from the truth.
The truth is bankruptcy is a business decision, not a moral one — it is the business of your life and you are the CEO. If paying off creditors means you can’t make mortgage payments, buy prescriptions, or are working a physically demanding job instead of spending time with family, it is time to consider bankruptcy. Most people that file bankruptcy can keep their homes, their retirement savings, and free up their finances enough that they can start living. The most common thing I hear from these clients are that they wish they hadn’t waited so long to talk to me. If you or a parent is having problems working with creditors and paying bills, it’s time to talk. Maybe bankruptcy is the best option, other times, it might make more sense to have an attorney negotiate with your creditor to restructure payments. You have options, but the longer you wait to act, the fewer options you have.
Don’t let debt chase you in retirement, call us today and see if we can help.