"Retiring in the Red" is part of the Borrowing to Make Ends Meet Briefing Paper Series. Reports an 89% average increase in credit card debt among America's seniors from 1992 to 2001.

Key Findings

Seniors (over age 65)

  • Average revolving balances among indebted seniors over 65 increased by 89 percent, to $4,041.  
  • Seniors between 65 and 69 years old, presumably the newly-retired, saw the most staggering rise in credit card debt -- 217 percent -- to an average of $5,844.
  • Female-headed senior households experienced a 48 percent rise between 1992 and 2001, to an average of $2,319.
  • Among seniors with incomes under $50,000 (70 percent of seniors), about one in five families with credit card debt is in debt hardship -- spending over 40 percent of their income on debt payments, including mortgage debt.

Transitioners (ages 55 - 64)

  • Transitioners experienced a 47 percent increase in their credit card debt between 1992 and 2001, to an average of $4,088.
  • The average credit card-indebted family in this age group now spends 31 percent of their income on debt payments, a 10 percentage point increase over the decade.
  • The credit card debt of middle- to low-income transitioner families without health insurance increased by 169 percent, as opposed to by only 37 percent for like-income families with health insurance.