Retirement & Financial Planning Report

A study has found that overall, debt among families with persons age 55 and older has held about steady in recent years, but they remain at “much higher levels than they have been for past generations” and larger percentages have debt above levels that are considered potential problems.

It found that over 1992-2010, the average debt of households that have any debt rose from about $34,000 to about $75,000 in 2010 dollars, while the median debt—half above and half below—rose from The Employee Benefits Research Institute further found that for persons age 55 and older, housing debt was the major component of debt.

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“The debt levels among those with housing debt have obvious and serious implications for the future retirement security of these Americans, perhaps most significantly that these families are potentially at risk of losing what is typically their most important asset—their home,” it said.about $17,000 to about $55,000.

It added: “While a high debt level is not necessarily a sign of financial danger for all elderly or near elderly families (especially if they are also high-income), housing debt (typically the most financially significant asset elderly families have) is of particular concern, because leveraging it at this point in their lives may leave them without a major resource to finance an adequate retirement.”

It found that the incidence of debt decreases with age—78 percent for those age 55-64, and 36 percent for those age 75 and older, for example. However, the percentage in the older group was up by 7 percentage points between 2007 and 2010.