Title of Oral/Poster Presentation

A Profile of Debt-Burdened Older Adults

Class

Article

Department

Family, Consumer, and Human Development

Faculty Mentor

Yoon Lee

Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Abstract

Improvements in medical care, technology, and health education over the past century have led to a longer average life expectancy. Nevertheless, today's retirees and near-retirees have large amounts of debt. On a lower fixed income, health problems can exacerbate the debt burden of retirees, especially if they hold mortgage or credit card debt. Using data from the 2010 Health and Retirement Study (HRS), this study profiles debt-burdened retirees age 65 or older, and investigates factors associated with the likelihood of holding mortgage debt and credit card debt in retirement. The sample for this study included 7,383 older adults. About 38 percent of them held debt from mortgages, home equity loans, and/or consumer debt. Specifically, 24.4 percent reported having consumer debt (M = $2,494), and 17 percent reported a mortgage balance (M = $17,087). The logistic regression results indicated that, all else being equal, college education, higher numbers of physical health problems, and being married significantly predicted the likelihood of holding mortgage and consumer debt during retirement. Older adults frequently carry debt into retirement, which may result in financial distress. About 17 percent of retirees in our sample were still paying their mortgages, and a quarter of them continued to owe credit card or medical debt. On a lower fixed income, paying down these debts could be particularly burdensome. Some retirees may need to borrow against their homes or sell them. However, with the decline of the housing market, many may not have enough equity in their homes. Our findings could help financial educators, financial planners, and policymakers understand how demographic characteristics predict holding debt in retirement. It is important for financial professionals to provide financial literacy education for near-retirees or younger adults who hold higher levels of debt so that they can be able to secure economic well-being in retirement.

Start Date

4-9-2015 10:30 AM

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Apr 9th, 10:30 AM

A Profile of Debt-Burdened Older Adults

Improvements in medical care, technology, and health education over the past century have led to a longer average life expectancy. Nevertheless, today's retirees and near-retirees have large amounts of debt. On a lower fixed income, health problems can exacerbate the debt burden of retirees, especially if they hold mortgage or credit card debt. Using data from the 2010 Health and Retirement Study (HRS), this study profiles debt-burdened retirees age 65 or older, and investigates factors associated with the likelihood of holding mortgage debt and credit card debt in retirement. The sample for this study included 7,383 older adults. About 38 percent of them held debt from mortgages, home equity loans, and/or consumer debt. Specifically, 24.4 percent reported having consumer debt (M = $2,494), and 17 percent reported a mortgage balance (M = $17,087). The logistic regression results indicated that, all else being equal, college education, higher numbers of physical health problems, and being married significantly predicted the likelihood of holding mortgage and consumer debt during retirement. Older adults frequently carry debt into retirement, which may result in financial distress. About 17 percent of retirees in our sample were still paying their mortgages, and a quarter of them continued to owe credit card or medical debt. On a lower fixed income, paying down these debts could be particularly burdensome. Some retirees may need to borrow against their homes or sell them. However, with the decline of the housing market, many may not have enough equity in their homes. Our findings could help financial educators, financial planners, and policymakers understand how demographic characteristics predict holding debt in retirement. It is important for financial professionals to provide financial literacy education for near-retirees or younger adults who hold higher levels of debt so that they can be able to secure economic well-being in retirement.