Retiring With Debt? More Americans Are.

Older couple on computer

Here are some strategies. - Detroit Free Press


Rhonda and Lonnie Edwards Jr. had good middle-class jobs most of their lives. He worked nearly 35 years in an hourly union job at General Motors. She had a job in Detroit Public Schools for 13 years as an attendance agent and earlier as a parent liaison. She later worked for the state unemployment agency for another 10 years.

"We were just middle-income earners. My goal was to be debt free by the time we retired," said Rhonda Edwards, 63.

Things didn't quite work out that way. The medical bills hit after Lonnie, now 67, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007, just three years after he had taken an early retirement in his 50s.

Around the same time, their finances took a dive during the depths of Detroit's housing crisis when they had plans to buy to a smaller co-op but had trouble selling their family home in the well-regarded University District in Detroit and ended up in foreclosure.

"We had a rude awakening that something was really going bad in the economy," she said.

Older Americans increasingly are discovering that retirement might not go as smoothly as brochures for retirement communities and river cruises across Europe suggest.

Carrying a boatload of debt, facing job cuts and dealing with bad health news make it tougher to pay the bills in retirement than many expect, even long after the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009. Some, like the Edwards family, are able to eventually work through their financial struggles in retirement. But the financial curveballs can be stressful nonetheless.

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Click here to continue to Detroit Free Press to read about financial strategies to consider if you are in or near retirement.

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