Living Debt Free….

The average consumer carries over $16,000 in credit card debt. And there is usually a mortgage and probably a car loan in the pile too. They say the total personal debt of U.S. consumers is over $11 trillion.  Unfortunately many of those are middle aged and moving into their retirement years. With all this debt they are obviously not putting away much for their later life.

It is quite startling how much debt many seniors today carry into their retirement! Four out of ten carry a mortgage with them into their golden years. Almost five out of ten carry a $6,000 credit card debt!  My father taught me to “put money away for a rainy day”.  While that message stuck with me it obviously didn’t with many of my cohorts.

What makes one person maintain a lifestyle that is debt free while another piles it on? My father and his generation were called Depression babies as he was  six years old at the onset of the Depression of the 1920s. My grandfather had a pig farm and was not seriously affected by the depression but I still remember Dad’s stories about some of his neighbors who were very much affected. Depression babies like my dad did not like debt but for the most part they are all gone now and quickly being replaced by us baby boomers. From the evidence it looks like many of us have not followed in our fathers’ footsteps about being debt free. Why are so many so ill-prepared for their senior years? I’m sure part of it has to do with “wanting it now”.

For some who are on retirement’s door it is already too late and that means they have to keep working whether they like it our not. Unfortunately, even among this group, there will be those who because of health or other issues will not be able to work in their senior years. What will happen to them. Most likely they will be trying to live on basically Social Security benefits which average usually a little over $1,000 per month. What would happen to those if even the Social Security safety net were removed?  According to some in the audience at the latest Republican presidential debate we should let them die! I hope and pray we never become a nation who lets that happen! But sadly I didn’t hear of anyone on the stage renouncing that idea!

I see the results of trying to live on Social Security alone weekly at the soup kitchen I volunteer.  Our lunch and dinner guests increase by about 25% the last week of the month when the checks are running out. We all would like to say “that happens to others” but I’m sure the “others” did not believe it would happen to them either.  No matter how close to retirement you are it is never to late to be reigning back some expenses in order to save a few dollars.