The average age for filing bankruptcy has increased and the rate of bankruptcy among those ages 65 and older has more than doubled since 1991, say researchers Teresa Sullivan of the University of Michigan, Deborah Thorne of Ohio University and Elizabeth Warren of Harvard Law School.
Expensive health care costs from a serious illness before a patient received Medicare and the inability to work during and after a serious illness are the prime contributors to financial crises among those 55 and older. But even among those 75 to 84 and receiving retirement, Social Security and Medicare benefits, the rates soared—from just 1.8 percent of all filers in 1991 to 5 percent in 2007.
Most Americans have two major assets: their homes and their retirement plans. And borrowing against those assets can present new risks when home values and stock markets decline, Sullivan and colleagues say. In some cases, older Americans trying to help children and grandchildren, borrow too much, putting themselves at risk.