In recent years a growing number of my bankruptcy clients have been older folks. Some a LOT older, say in their 70's and even a few in their 80's and 90's. It just struck me this morning, as I was reading an AP article in the Houston Chronicle entitled "Retirees Find Taming Debt A Tall Order."

The article explains that even though it is not a must to be out of debt at retirement, it is an excellent idea. I have had a number of older folks come in recently that have a lot of equity in their home, but no money to pay the mortgage. While I'm not usually a fan of "reverse mortgages," that is one option if you are over 62, have a lot of home equity and either can't pay the mortgage anymore, or just need the money, and don't want to move.

I'm shocked by the number of people that come in that are in their 60's and have just taken out a mortgage. And they are about to retire, or they've already retired. What are they thinking? In some cases, the folks had sizable retirement plans until the recent stock collapse changed their plans.

I think home ownership is overrated, particularly if you are older. Who needs the headache of lawn care, pest control, things breaking, having to clean a larger place, etc. I'm for renting after you reach a certain age, and not worrying about things. You can't take it with you! But a lot of the debt older folks get into is credit card debt. Some borrow it to help their children. Some use it for necessary medical bills or prescriptions.

Others were working, but lost their jobs and have been using the credit cards to live on, until they find that new job. Unfortunately, for some older folks, there may not be a new job, at least one like they had. And they'll be lucky to get health insurance. They way the health care system is now, older workers just cost too much to insure. My advice to older folks that find themselves in debt over their head: if there is no other reasonable option, go ahead and file bankruptcy.

J Thomas Black
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Board Certified, Consumer Bankruptcy Law- Texas Board of Legal Specialization
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