Older Adult Debt and Financial Frailty

27 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2014

See all articles by Annamaria Lusardi

Annamaria Lusardi

George Washington University - Department of Accountancy; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Olivia S. Mitchell

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: September 30, 2013

Abstract

Of particular interest in the present economic environment is whether access to credit is changing peoples’ indebtedness over time, particularly as they approach retirement. This project analyzes older individuals’ debt, debt management practices, and financial fragility using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and the National Financial Capability Study (NFCS). Specifically, we examine three different cohorts (individuals age 56-61) in different time periods, 1992, 2002 and 2008, in the HRS to evaluate cross-cohort changes in debt over time. We also draw on recent data from the National Financial Capability Study (NFCS) which provides detailed information on how families manage their debt. Our goal is to assess how wealth and debt among older persons has evolved over time, along with the potential consequences for retirement security. We find that more recent cohorts have taken on more debt and face more financial insecurity, mostly due to having purchased more expensive homes with smaller down payments. In addition, Baby Boomers are more likely to have engaged in expensive borrowing practices. Factors associated with better debt outcomes include having higher income, more education, and greater financial literacy; those associated with financial fragility include having more children and experiencing unexpected large income declines. Thus, shocks do play a role in the accumulation of debt close to retirement. But it is not enough to have resources, people also need the capacity to manage those resources if they are to stay out of debt as they head into retirement.

Keywords: older adults, debt, retirement, financial literacy, Baby Boomers

Suggested Citation

Lusardi, Annamaria and Mitchell, Olivia S., Older Adult Debt and Financial Frailty (September 30, 2013). Michigan Retirement Research Center Research Paper No. 2013-291. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2376493 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2376493

Annamaria Lusardi (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Department of Accountancy ( email )

George Washington University School of Business
Washington, DC 20052
United States

HOME PAGE: http://business.gwu.edu/profiles/annamaria-lusardi/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Olivia S. Mitchell

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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