Dying Americans leave credit card debt behind

By Sara Story - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - It's a looming problem among aging Americans, and many of them say they're not worried about fixing it, ever. A recent poll shows that nearly 40% of Americans acquired credit card debt after they retired, and they have no intention of paying it back before they die.

At age 73, Ed Ingold is armed with a variety of credit cards.

"I have 'em all. A Discover, a Visa, a MasterCard, Walmart. But you have to be controlling. Any debt I have, I try to pay off. Credit card, I try to pay it off, monthly, or it could be a fortune," Ingold said.

Ingold keeps a close eye on his bills, but the number of retired Americans in credit card debt has spun out of control.

"I think the idea of retirement is at the forefront of lots of people's minds. But, a lot of people are retiring who can't afford retirement," Estate Planning Attorney Greg Kimmel said.

More than half of the people surveyed said they saved less than $50,000 for retirement, and many of them said they saved nothing at all. Only 4% said they waited to retire because of debt.

"I don't know what would convince someone that they could retire, lose their income, when all they have is $50,000 or nothing in the bank," Kimmel said.

Kimmel said children are not responsible for paying off their parent's credit cart debt, but creditors will find other means of getting paid, which could impact the entire family.

"That debt is usually paid at the expense of someone's inheritance, and also, it can force the sale of family assets like family property or family business," Kimmel said.

Kimmel urged people to seek financial help before retirement. If you're in debt, make a budget and aggressively pay it off. He said if you have a long-term medical need, learn about government benefits so you can mak sure not to leave your burden behind.

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