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Latest read on consumer debt offers good news, bad news

Great news! The U.S. Census Bureau says that, compared to 2000, more consumers are free of debt than they used to be. The bad news: those who are in debt are deeper in it and senior citizens represent the largest segment of the population who happen to be in that pool.

As many in Texas can attest the need for debt relief remains significant and, fortunately, there are a number of options -- both through bankruptcy or other means -- available. Finding the right form in a given situation is something that can be done with the help of experienced legal counsel.

If the latest figures are any indication, those who may be in the most need of such help are in the older generation. The Census Bureau's figures, issued just a few weeks ago, indicate that the median level of debt carried by seniors doubled between 2000 and 2011 from just over $12,000 to $26,000. That means that half of all households led by individuals who are 65 and older have debt above the $26,000 mark and half have less. At the same time, the net worth of all households has declined by 16 percent.

The big concern in these statistics is that the median point likely reflects the peak of a bell curve and that bell curve appears to be gradually moving into higher figures. That is raising fears among some observers that retirement for many seniors is going to have to be put off for a longer period of time and might not be as comfortable as had been planned.

The major culprit behind the debt rise for our elders appears to be related to mortgages. Many more seniors than in the past entered the recent Great Recession still owing on their homes. With the collapse of the housing market, many found themselves owing more than their houses are now worth.

In addition, analysts say, folks in the older bracket have become more likely than ever to have greater unsecured debts due to job losses, helping their children through job losses, divorces and other life changes.

When all is said and done, it would seem that the good news of the latest reports doesn't quite outweigh the bad.

Source: USAToday, "More Americans debt-free, but the rest owe more," Tim Mullaney, March 21, 2013

  • Issues raised in this blog represent areas of concern our firm addresses. Readers wishing to learn may benefit from visiting our Texas debt relief options page.

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