Old and Bankrupt

Young folks weren’t the only ones getting in over their heads in the now-vanished days of easy credit. According to a study by AARP’s Public Policy Institute (crunching numbers from the Consumer Bankruptcy Project), the median age of bankruptcy filers has risen from 36.5 in 1991 to 43 last year, pushed up by an increase in filings among those age 55 and up. (The median age of the total U.S. population rose by just three years during the same period.)

Still, people in their mid-adult years continue to account for the biggest share of bankruptcies. Half are by 25-34-year-olds (22 percent of the total) or 35-44s (28 percent); 45-54s account for 24 percent, and those 55-plus for another 22 percent. Having had insufficient time (and credit) to get into such difficulties, 18-24-year-olds made just 4 percent of bankruptcy filings.

For the population as a whole, there were 4.6 bankruptcy filings per 1,000 people last year. That’s down 29 percent from 1991, largely due to 2005 changes in bankruptcy law that made this status more disadvantageous.