High debt is a concern in retirement years

More American seniors are shouldering debt as they enter their retirement years, according to a new analysis from the University of Michigan’s Retirement Research Center Health. Here are the key findings:

  • 32 percent of all Americans over age 50 carry non-mortgage debt from month to month—on average, $4,786 in credit card debt and $12,490 in total non-mortgage debt.
  • 40 percent of all older Americans have credit card debt in excess of $5,000. More than one in five (22%) have more than $10,000 in credit card debt. On average, those with more than $10,000 in credit card debt couldn’t pay off their debt even by emptying their checking accounts.
  • 37 percent of all Americans over age 50 have a checking account balance less than $1,000.

Seniors don’t have the liquidity to deal with financial hardships as they approach retirement. This is especially concerning because seniors are more likely than average to face high medical expenses, researchers noted.

Thirty-six percent of Americans who experienced financial hardship classified it as an unexpected health expense, according to a Federal Reserve Board report on the economic standing of U.S. households in 2015. The median out-of-pocket health-related expense was $1,200.

One in 10 American seniors has a checking account balance with less than $1,000 and carries credit card debt. This could leave them unable to recover from larger financial setbacks, researchers said.