How Capitalism Exploits Our Fear of Old Age

In 1989, only one in five Americans aged 75 or older were in debt; by 2016, almost half were, according to the most recent US Federal Reserve survey of consumer finances. The rise in senior debt comes at a time when the wealth gap between rich and middle-class or poor Americans is at an all-time high, according to a study last year by the Pew Research Center.

By 2016, the wealth of upper-income Americans had more than recovered from the post-2008 recession, but the wealth of lower- and middle-income families was at 1989 levels, highlighting the long-term rise in income inequality in the US.

As these low- to middle-income families age, many are being pitched into debt-burdened retirement by several structural trends, including the decline of trade unions, with their power to negotiate real wage increases, good pensions and retiree healthcare packages; the disappearance of defined benefit pension schemes; steep healthcare inflation; and a sharp rise in middle-class families helping to pay for children to go to college.

Naked Capitalism