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Bankruptcy tarnishes golden years for many Tennessee seniors

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (OSBORNE)  --  A new study says older Americans are now filing for bankruptcy at an alarming rate. 

Researchers with the New York based Consumer Bankruptcy Project (CBP) say there’s been a fivefold increase in the number of seniors filing for bankruptcy in recent years.


Bankruptcy filings have actually fallen here in the mid-state the last two years, but Tennessee routinely ranks among the top five states for the total number of people seeking protection from creditors.


The CBP report’s authors attribute the increase to a drop in wages, loss of jobs, overwhelming health care costs, and reductions in safety net programs.


Sonya Bellafant with the Tennessee Senior Law Alliance says the older Tennesseans her organization councils often report going without prescriptions, food and other necessities in an effort to honor their obligations.


“It’s inherent within their character and they want to pay the debt. It’s a matter that they don’t have the ability.”


The Bankruptcy Project report says many older Americans saw their wages and savings slashed during the recession and never recovered.


Diane Oakley directs the National Institute on Retirement Security. She says seniors frequently make their debt problems worse by turning to credit cards or payday lenders to keep bill collectors at bay.


“Some of those things really just get you into a vicious cycle that is so hard to get out of. The only way many individuals see to get out of it is bankruptcy.”


Sonya Bellafant says, at the very least, seniors should know they don’t have to put up with the harassing calls and letters from bill collectors that keep them under constant stress.


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