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America’s escalating debt crisis

There’s a brewing crisis in terms of debt accumulated by America’s seniors. The bulk of the population over the age of 65 living with debt has been escalating since the 1990s, according to the Center for Retirement Research, with the majority of older borrowers at “high risk of financial distress.” Medical bills, mortgages, credit cards and auto loans are all part of the problem.

Faced with this ballooning debt problem, many seniors have turned to their children for support. In fact, 32% of American adults aged 40 to 64 admitted they provided regular financial support to their senior parents, according to a 2020 survey by AARP.

Karla’s dad apparently wanted to join this cohort. He requested $55,000 to pay off credit cards and an auto loan because it was the only way for him and his wife to “get ahead” at their age.

She described him as “a great salesman” who’s very convincing. Her dad is 80 years old, so working to pay off that debt isn’t a viable option.

However, Karla said her dad’s wife is owed money from certain sources that she’s unwilling to pursue. Karla believes her dad turned to her simply because she’s considered an “easier mark.”

She and her husband are retired, debt-free and on a fixed income with assets worth $2 to $3 million, based on her estimates, but they do not have the cash her father is requesting.

“I’m sorry you’re in this situation, it’s so hard,” Ramsey told her. “I would, in a heartbeat, pay off my dad or my mom’s stuff and just help out if he’s 80 years old. But the situation [is completely different]... because you’re not doing it for any really good reason, you’re only doing it because you’re caving and [a] coward.”

A difficult conversation

Ramsey recommended Karla turn down her dad’s request.

However, he also acknowledged that such a conversation would be difficult. “It tears you up, because it’s your daddy,” he said. “I don’t care how old you get, he’s still your daddy. And that’s why this is just so wrong to put you in this position.”

He encouraged her to just say “no” and push her dad to seek the funds elsewhere. “That’s the beginning and the end of it. You don’t have to give an explanation to the ‘salesman,’” he said.

About the Author

Vishesh Raisinghani

Vishesh Raisinghani

Freelance Writer

Vishesh Raisinghani is a freelance contributor at MoneyWise. He has been writing about financial markets and economics since 2014 - having covered family offices, private equity, real estate, cryptocurrencies, and tech stocks over that period. His work has appeared in Seeking Alpha, Motley Fool Canada, Motley Fool UK, Mergers & Acquisitions, National Post, Financial Post, and Yahoo Canada.

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