More Americans over age 55 are carrying debt loads, and their non-mortgage debt grew significantly during the pandemic.
Angie Barajas taught special education and bilingual classes in El Paso high schools for 25 years. But after caring for two ailing family members, Ms. Barajas slid from a stable middle-class life into bankruptcy court.
Ms. Barajas is among a growing number of retirees and those approaching retirement who are in debt. Her struggle began after she retired in 2004 to care for her sick father. When he died a year later, she returned to work as a substitute teacher. Even with those wages and her $1,600 monthly pension, her income was half of what she had earned before she retired, she said…
…According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, the share of households headed by someone 55 or older with debt — from credit cards, mortgages, medical bills and student loans — increased to 68.4 percent in 2019, from 53.8 percent in 1992. Bankruptcy rates among older adults are also rising.
The Covid-19 pandemic may be adding to their woes. A survey at the end of 2020 by Clever, an online service that connects home buyers and sellers with real estate agents, found that on average, retirees had doubled their non-mortgage debt in 2020 — to $19,200.