Credit Card Debt Reaches Record Levels for Pre-Retirement Americans

Some Americans' reliance on credit cards to bridge budgetary gaps before retirement may have backfired, according to a new study. Data from the Employee Benefit Research Institute indicates that increased debt burdens on American families could postpone retirement for homeowners and cardholders that must find new sources of income.

The nonpartisan research group's findings suggest that many Americans used credit cards and home refinance loans to cover rising expenses, expecting retirement fund payouts and government benefits to take up some financial slack after age 65. EBRI spokesperson Craig Copeland told reporters that the average debt for an American families with a head of household over the age of 55 rose to $70,370. The median credit card balance for families with heads of household aged 55-64 rose the fastest of all groups, from $2,416 in 2004 to $3,600 in 2007.

EBRI used information collected near the start of the recession cycle and before most widespread effects of the economic downturn had been felt. "These measures of debt have almost certainly significantly worsened from these already-record levels," Copeland said. "Consequently, even more near-elderly and elderly families are likely at risk for severe changes in lifestyle after retirement."