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Some older Americans facing financial struggles

Making ends meet on a fixed income can be difficult for Florida residents, and a study from the University of Michigan suggests that many older Americans are finding it especially hard to cope. The school’s Retirement Research Center’s annual Health and Retirement Study, which has polled more than 20,000 Americans aged 50 or over about their financial situations since 1990, reveals that about one in three older Americans are obligated to make monthly payments on non-mortgage debt.

The study paints a worrying picture of the financial struggles facing many older Americans. More than a third of the individuals surveyed said that they had less than $1,000 in their checking accounts, and 20 percent of them reported that they owed more than $10,000 to credit card companies. The high revolving debt levels are particularly concerning because they suggest that many older Americans are using their credit cards to cover basic needs like food and shelter and are unprepared to face the sometimes crippling costs of long-term care.

Older Americans with high revolving debt levels exhibited other signs of financial insecurity according to the study. The researchers found that seniors with credit card balances owed an average of $12,490 in non-mortgage debts and had net worths 43 percent lower than those who paid their bills in full each month.

Many older Americans have traditional views and still view bankruptcy as a sign of personal failure. Attorneys with debt relief experience will likely be familiar with the various myths and misconceptions surrounding bankruptcy, and they may explain that the laws governing Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 filings were written to provide second chances and not punish misfortune or poor decisions. Filing a Chapter 13 petition protects the assets of those struggling on a fixed income while allowing them to take control of their financial situations by paying down their debts.

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