Richard J. Shurtz, Attorney at Law

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Bankruptcy is being filed in record numbers by senior citizens

Several national publications have recently reported that people over the age of 65, including here in Washington State, are filing bankruptcy at three times the pace that they did nearly 20 years ago. For those who have been taking a close look at the economy and the real income of our older citizens, this trend was to be expected. The fact is that many older residents are living on meager Social Security checks without additional income. Even those with additional income are not making enough to keep up, resulting in skyrocketing bankruptcy filings.  

Many pensions and retirement funds never panned out for a large numbers of struggling Americans. The exponential growth of health care expenses and efforts to cut down on universal health care insurance, including recent apparent reductions in Medicare benefits, have rocked the financial stability of a large number of elderly Americans. Experts point out that these types of problems have been building for years.

Generally, all working-class Americans struggle to make ends meet in a society that does not emphasize the need for real wage growth to exceed inflation rates. Even Social Security checks are not keeping up with inflation. The unfortunate fact is that government and employers have been shedding their traditional roles of financial responsibility and putting it back on individuals who simply cannot afford the rapidly growing expenses.

Bankruptcy provides safety net protection to needy seniors who find themselves facing insurmountable debt. When a senior is hit with an unexpected medical crisis and the bills pour in without financial relief in sight, a bankruptcy can be a necessary option for survival, both here in Washington state and elsewhere. It is undetermined whether government will intercede to provide universal health care coverage and other reasonable programs that will remedy the financial concerns that are now making life more burdensome for senior citizens over others.

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