Don't Let Debt Derail Your Retirement

January 15, 2013 | | Kiplinger |

Adrift on a sea of red ink, more middle class Americans are feeling queasy about their retirement plans. And many of those struggling to save have very little time to right the ship.

A series of new studies released by AARP on Tuesday probed the causes and consequences of middle class financial woes. One dominant theme: Rising levels of credit card, mortgage, student-loan and other debt threaten to push many people out of the middle class during their retirement years.

While average debt increased for all age groups between 1989 and 2010, the oldest retirees saw the largest spike, AARP found. Average debt among people 75 and older climbed 978% over this period, compared with a 384% increase for people 65 to 74 and an 89% increase for 25- to 49-year-olds. A shorter-term view doesn't make the picture much prettier: For people 75 and older, average debt soared 108% between 2007 and 2010, even as 25- to 49-year-olds saw debt drop 15%.