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Many Elderly Americans Facing Bankruptcy

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Senior Citizens and Bankruptcy

In recent years the United States has seen the basic expenses of living - gas, food, medical care - skyrocket. Combine that with an unprecedented increase in foreclosures - up 48% from May 2007 to May 2008 - and millions of people are struggling to make ends meet. Some of the hardest hit during the economic downturns are those in their retirement years.

The American Bar Association conducted a survey citing nearly half of those surveyed are worried about making mortgage payments, and 16% have even higher credit and balances than before. And of those surveyed, 39% of those with financial concerns for the future have taken no action.

How does this affect older Americans? Many find themselves in positions they never planned for. 12% more adults over the age of 55 are filing bankruptcy than 13 years ago, and account for nearly 25% of all bankruptcies currently filed.

Retirement aged Americans are not only trying to keep up with their own ever-increasing expenses - such as medical care - they're also assisting their adult children who are also in financial difficulty. Many find their grown children and grandchildren moving back into their homes, creating a further drain on limited resources.

Compound this with an endless flood of credit card offers. Many retired Americans take on more credit card debt rather than asking for help. Now they're maxed out with rising interest rates and have no way to pay the balances. Or, they're taking mortgages or lines of credit out on their homes to pay their bills. In either case, many have fallen for the predatory lending practices.

Now, those who should be enjoying retirement are facing foreclosure and bankruptcy. Born in a generation which believed it was shameful to be unable to pay their bills or file bankruptcy now find themselves rethinking their options. They've discovered bankruptcy isn't a reflection of their character. It's an economic, legal option for getting out from under a heavy financial burden.

Many retirees find they qualify for Chapter 7 discharge when they finally speak with a local bankruptcy attorney. Social Security benefits are exempt from income restrictions under Chapter 7. Most debt accumulated by senior Americans was accumulated before retirement, or is unsecured debt like credit cards and medical bills. If this is the case, most of the debt can be discharged and change the financial status of the retired person. Not all debt is dischargeable under Chapter 7; a bankruptcy attorney can evaluate your situation and advise you.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is still an option for those who don't qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. With Chapter 13 bankruptcy a plan is drawn up to repay any outstanding debt. The plan runs for a minimum of 3 years to a maximum of 5 years, but it allows for the person filing bankruptcy to keep more property. Assets are not sold under Chapter 13; payments are made out of income. This may be a more likely option for senior Americans who may still be working or own their own business.

People of retirement age have worked hard to make a home for themselves and their families. They should be enjoying it. Foreclosure doesn't have to happen. Bankruptcy can be the way out. Discuss your options with a qualified bankruptcy attorney today. A home is too valuable to lose.

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