The Role of Secured and Unsecured Debt In Retirement Planning

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Social Work


Nearly 40 percent of Americans approaching retirement felt heavily indebted. Understanding the role of secured and unsecured debt in retirement planning becomes an urgent concern for researchers and policymakers alike. Using data from the 2015 National Financial Capability Study (NFCS), the current study identified secured debt (mortgage and auto loan) and unsecured debt (medical debt and credit card debt) among a national sample of pre-retirees aged 51–61 years. Logit regression models were estimated to examine and compare each debt’s relationship retirement planning among pre-retirees. We found a relatively large portion of the pre-retiree sample approached retirement in debt, and having debt was negatively associated with retirement planning. We also found that secured debt does not seem to facilitate retirement planning, and unsecured debt had a strong negative association with retirement planning. Our findings highlight differential impact that debt from different sources can have on retirement security, calling for closer examination on the role of debt in retirement security across income groups and those without retirement plans. Findings of this study yield policy implications on access to retirement accounts and financial education provision towards financial health and solvency of older Americans.

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Journal of Family and Economic Issues



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