First Person: Baby Boomer Debt Will Slow Down the Economic Recovery

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COMMENTARY | According to Reuters, economic recovery is gaining steam as the jobless rate dropped to a near three-year low. An unemployment rate of 8.5 percent still seems terrible to me.

Even though some people may be getting jobs, I don't think the economy will fully recover while so many people, including senior citizens, have consumer debt.

People tend to accumulate debt when they are unemployed, but they also accumulate debt when they don't have enough in retirement savings.

I know it took me four years of working around the clock to pay off my debt after being jobless for about six months in my 20s while my Generation X peers were being called "slackers."

What's startling to me is how the older generation has accumulated massive credit card and mortgage debt even going into their retirement years. While the lower unemployment rate may help younger people get out of debt, it can't help those senior citizens who aren't able or choose not to work.

Saving plans that went bust

It's startling to me how many baby boomers I know that take out a mortgage to buy their retirement homes. One of my neighbors said he kept working so he would have income to show the mortgage lender. Once he was approved to buy his house, he retired from his job and started taking Social Security.

In her book, "The Money Class," Suze Orman says people need to get equal pleasure from saving as they do from spending.

"Continuing to carry a mortgage once you stop working puts your retirement dreams at risk," she writes.

Many of the people retiring now were part of the 'me-generation.' They don't appear to have the same passion for saving as the retirees who lived through the Great Depression or the younger Generation-Z who lived through the Great Recession.

The housing bust

It's difficult to jump start the economy by spending money when you have to pay a mortgage and credit card bills on a fixed income.

After the housing market crash, most seniors retiring now don't have equity in their homes.

A growing number of baby boomers are seeking bankruptcy protection, which certainly can't help banks recover. Big banks are the modern-day public enemy, but without them most of us wouldn't own a home.

One of my baby boomer colleagues has already declared bankruptcy once, and is considering doing it again.

The baby boom bust

Of course, many people my age are worried about the baby boom bust as the older generation sells their assets to pay for retirement or for their credit card debts.

I have no doubt much of the volatility in the stock market can be attributed to the large number of baby boomers exiting the market, but it doesn't stop me from investing for the long term.

Observing the rise and fall of the baby boomers has greatly affected me. It has turned me off completely to credit card debt. It's made me want to worker harder, save and invest now. I want to pay off my home in my 40s and leave my children an inheritance. I don't seek out "me time" because at the end of the day, that just brings emptiness inside one's self and one's wallet.


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