We Are in Our 70s, in Debt, and Out of Money. What Can We Do?

Question:

Dear Steve,

My husband and I are both in our 70's. He's 79 soon to be 80 and I'm 76 soon to be 77.

We have gotten ourselves into a lot of debt. ($50,000) We started our retirement with a total of $400,000.

Through bad advice and my husband not paying any attention what to was happening with his 401K, his 401K ran out of money. We have been living on our pensions and his social security.

I don't get social security as I worked for the Government and am having to pay for my Medicare, which is a lot of money every year.

My question is, what would be the best way for us to get help on paying our large credit card debt? We have a mortgage on our house, had to buy a different car as the engine in our car just gave out.

We also ended up having to help our oldest son financially as he lost his job. He moved in with us, but even though he was able to find part time jobs it wasn't enough for him to make it financially, so we ended up helping him out. Which just put us into more debt.

It has been a nightmare for us. Even though we have been able to make the minimum payments on the credit cards and some months a little more, we are not making any headway on getting them paid off. We just don't have the energy anymore to get part time jobs, but we would like to try and pay this debt which we owe.

Any suggestions you can give us would be appreciated.

Gwen

Answer:

Dear Gwen,

From my point of view the answer is terribly painfully obvious. It's something that in a perfect world, had been considered before everything slid into the toilet.

But it's a solution people far too often mistakenly think is a last resort or should be avoided.

I'm assuming you don't have much equity on your home. Otherwise that would have probably been tapped and drained.

Considering the facts you've shared, here is how I see your situation.

  • You do not have enough income to make your payments and certainly not enough to pay down the debt.
  • Your retirement savings is gone. All you have left to count on moving forward is some pension and Social Security. Frankly, that's not going to be enough as the years progress unless we do something.
  • Life is wearing you down.
  • You're not getting younger.

All of these things being considered, the most logical solution is to find a local bankruptcy attorney who is licensed in your state. You should absolutely consider bankruptcy as your first option considering your income and debt situation.

Filing bankruptcy doesn't make you a loser. It makes you someone who took responsibility for the reality of your current situation. How can filing bankruptcy be the most responsible thing to do, you might wonder.

Well let's look at what will happen if you don't closely consider bankruptcy. Your income will not be sufficient to meet your obligations moving forward. When you default you will wind up in collections, can be sued, and you will probably lose the suit. However, you may be judgment proof based on the type of income you have. The forgiven debt will be taxable to you if you are not insolvent. But if you are insolvent, then that's exactly what bankruptcy is designed for, in order to give you a fresh start.

Bankruptcy will give you a chance to wipe the slate clean and find a way to live within your income. Clearly you've not been able to do that because of your debt load. I would bet a bushel of apples part of the credit card debt was to help make ends meet. Your ends have been strangers for a while now.

If I could beg you to do something right now, it would be for you to read So You Are Going to File Bankruptcy. That's Good News. Congratulations.

It's time for you to take action to make tomorrow safer, and less precarious. I want you to have a brighter future and stop living in fear of your current situation. So get comfortable and please read How to Get Out of Debt. The Honest and Unvarnished Truth.

This article by Get Out of Debt first appeared here and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.