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Debt is Threatening the Retirements of Americans

Over the last 10 years, there has been a significant increase in debt among households headed by someone age 70 or older. These older Americans are struggling with mortgages, credit card debts, car loans, and even student loan debt.

A fixed income coupled with higher debt loads leaves many older Americans feeling helpless.

The current average monthly Social Security check is $1,400, and more than 40 percent of single adults receive more than 90 percent of their income from social security.

According to the GAO (Government Accountability Office), the number of Social Security recipients 65 and older who had their check reduced because of their student loans increased by more than 500 percent between 2002 and 2015.

Yet it is never too late to take some steps to deal with this situation. Here are some steps:

Get your budget in order. If you do not have a nest egg to cover your expenses, you need to make some changes.

First, sort out your monthly expenses to see where, and if, you have room to work at reducing your debt. Make a budget and stick to it to avoid falling deeper into debt.

Reach out to Creditors.

Try to negotiate more favorable terms, i.e. reduced or no interest or smaller monthly minimum payments or even total or partial loan forgiveness. Many hospitals have programs where you can reduce some or all of your medical bills based upon your income, assets, and specific situation.

Do not wait.

If you see problems making your payments in the future, whether it is your mortgage or basic monthly expenses, or even credit card debts, rather than wait until the payments are not being made, communicate with your creditors or local non-profit agencies to seek help.

While you are exploring strategies to deal with the debt, try to at least make the monthly minimum payments on your credit cards to keep your options open. If they go into default, it might be harder to negotiate more favorable terms.

Change your lifestyle.

You might have to make some hard decisions and give up some things you take for granted, like cable or satellite or eating out or the gym membership.

Would it make sense to move somewhere where the cost of living is cheaper? Perhaps to a state that doesn’t have a personal income tax? Should you sell your home? Can you work part-time?

Consider bankruptcy.

This is a final resort, but one that in many cases should be considered. It is not right for everyone, but in the right circumstances, it could completely change your financial situation for the better.

Don’t spend your older years struggling to contend with financial decisions made when you were younger or your income was higher. Remember, you are not alone, these problems are hitting many older Americans all across the country. Whether the financial difficulty is from a bad choice or an illness or a job loss, remember, everyone makes mistakes and has bad things happen to them, so be honest with yourself about your ability to handle your financial load and focus on opportunities to get on top of your financial situation.