Infographic: The face of senior card debt

Debt of most types is on the rise for America’s seniors, and credit card debt is no exception.

Roughly a third of households headed by someone age 60 or older carried some card debt during the years 2004-2013, according to a recent study by the National Council of Aging. But from 1989-2001, the proportion with credit card debt hovered closer to a quarter.

Median card balances have also climbed. In the study’s five earliest reporting periods – from 1989-2001 – the median card balance (among seniors with a balance) was well below $2,000. In the four periods since 2004, the median was substantially above $2,000, with a peak nearing $3,000 in 2007.

Only medical bills were found to impact seniors’ financial security more frequently than credit card debt. In surveying aging network professionals about how frequently different types of debt impact the financial security of their senior clients, credit card debt was cited as an occasional, frequent or very frequent threat among 88 percent of the older adults.

The aging network professionals further reported that they see about 1 in 4 of their clients forgoing needed home or car repairs as a result of their debt burden, and roughly 15 percent each skipping medical appointments or missing a rent or mortgage payment.

Released Feb. 9, 2016, the National Council on Aging’s “Older Adults and Debt: Trends, Trade-offs, and Tools to Help” report is based on both a May 2015 survey of 72 aging network professionals representing a cross-section of state and community organizations that serve older adults and data from several national surveys of consumer finances and debt.




See related: Infographic: Average card balances by age 2003-2015, More infographics

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Updated: 02-18-2019