A Cruel Retirement Part Two – Non-Fixed Expenses on a Fixed Income


In the first part of this article, we explored how medical debt can be a very crippling economic reality. Of course, retirement is supposed to be a great time in our lives. That is the reality for some people, but how circumstances hit your life can really shatter the plans you have for retirement.

Many of us wake up to find out that the plan we thought we had was not successful. We may have planned to go to school, get a job, get married, raise a family, play with the grandchildren, retire and possibly travel. What we did not expect were the emergencies in our life.

Either we or a family member may have experienced a divorce. Sometimes that reduction of income, if it happens to us, requires a longer work life than we had ever anticipated. Instead of putting all of our disposable income away in a retirement fund, we had to raise a family by ourselves. Repairs to the house had to be put on a credit card to allow us to put food on the table.

Another scenario we see in our office is the one in which the grown child moves back home. Either they have gotten divorced or have lost what used to be a solid job. Suddenly the grandparents are thrust back into the role of supporting the whole family. Sometimes, there is an unplanned pregnancy and we have a whole family back home just as we were planning to start relaxing.

Before too long, we are past the point where we can realistically continue to work. We have absorbed most of the expenses that could be anticipated and had to put the rest on credit cards. At first, it is fairly easy to make it financially. However, as gasoline costs continue to rise, so do food and other commodities. The Social Security check and/or retirement check simply cannot keep up. Each month, it is harder and harder to absorb the difference.

For many in this age group, there is a sense of shame because we think our parents never got into this situation. Realistically they probably did, but the current generation is far more open to discussions about finances than was the last. After a while, the check will not reach until the end of the month. When that decision is made to stop paying the credit cards, the phone calls begin.

Unlike younger people who can escape to work every day, the retired person has to sit at home and hear that phone ring and ring. Each ring brings a new sense of dread. We have been taught to try to work out our problems, so the retired person finally answers the telephone to see if something can be worked out. The abuse has started. The telephone collector is trained to make the person on the other end of the line feel as though they are worthless. Any good collector knows that all you have to do is get the person to shed tears and they will often start drafting a payment.

It all sounds hopeless, but be assured it is not. Bankruptcy can have a tremendous and positive impact on a retired person’s finances. More importantly, it can have tremendous health benefits. Doctors tell us more and more that stress will ultimately have a negative impact on our lives. When you are elderly, the stress manifests itself even more as a health issue. Many people tell bankruptcy attorneys that they cannot sleep anymore and that is why they must file for bankruptcy. Most people are afraid they will lose something in bankruptcy. In most cases, nothing is lost. A well-trained bankruptcy attorney will let you know, prior to filing, if there is any chance of loss of property. In most cases, all that is lost is debt.

If you or a loved one is facing an overwhelming financial debt situation, consider talking to a bankruptcy attorney PRIOR to depleting the resources that may be needed to sustain the years of retirement. The consultation is free and there may be other options. However, until you sit down with an experienced attorney, you will not know if bankruptcy can help. At least talk to us.