I remember when I was going to night school in 1998 to earn my graduate certificate in gerontology the professors were teaching students that, "Today's senior citizen population is the wealthiest and the healthiest older population our country has ever seen." (The professors were referring to those senior citizens who were born between 1923 - 1933.)
Then they would go on to say, "Those who stand to benefit from this earned wealth are the middle-age children of these senior citizens. As they will be the ones who will inherit it." The professors were referring to the baby boomer generation.
I find this interesting, because what I was taught in 1998 is contrary to the recent AARP's Public Policy Institute Research Report, entitled "Generations of Struggle." This study points out the shaky financial ground that the 55 and older population is on.
The size of the baby boomer generation alone makes it worth studying. It's size is the cause of some of the social and economic events that are taking place in our American society today.
With that in mind, the AARP sponsored research that studied the occurrence of bankruptcy filings since 1991, and it focused its analysis on those filers who were age 55 and older.
Here are some interesting trends it cited:
* Individuals, of all ages, today are emotionally worried about their acquired debt.
* Over one million people (of all ages) filed for bankruptcy last year.
* Since 1991 the rate of bankruptcy filings doubled for the age 65 and older population group.
* The bankruptcy population has aged faster than the general U.S. population.
* In 1991 only 8.2% of the debtors were age 55 or older. By 2007, that percentage of 55 and older debtors rose to 22.3%. Even with the more stringent bankruptcy law changes in 2005, the 55 and older population were filing for bankruptcy at a higher rate in 2007 than they filed in 1991.
Is the increase in bankruptcy occurring among the 55 and older population because:
* Boomers outspent their "anticipated" inheritance in the form of credit card spending and equity loans?
* Did parents of boomers go broke due to health care expenses that ate up the financial legacy that was intended for their middle aged children?
* Are late middle-age and older-age people living beyond their means?
Just as important as finding an answer to those questions listed above, is answering the following questions:
* What is it going to take to restore financial literacy back into the fabric of our American society? And who should lead this charge? Does anyone care?