News Stories

Who's Broke? (It's Not Who You Think it Is)

In theory, older people and people with higher levels of education should be more financially stable and have an easier time affording their homes, but since the economy has become such a horror show, new research suggests that's not the case (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to these shows).

Regional planning expert Jerry Anthony examined data collected by the Consumer Bankruptcy Project at Harvard University of households from across the United States that filed for bankruptcy in 2007. One might assume that older folks would be less burdened by housing expenses. With their mortgage payment remaining unchanged while their income generally increased, the house should be paid off--or close to it, but Anthony found evidence to the contrary as the chance of being "housebroke" was much higher if the oldest adult was 65 or older than if the oldest adult was 40 or younger. He says, "Financial literacy in the US was at an all-time low before 2007-08. Banks and mortgage companies had been downplaying the risk of borrowing too much, saying that the more you borrow, the more prosperous you will be. They convinced people that their house was an ATM, and the equity in the house was for their spending pleasure. The public has got to be smarter than that."

Anthony encourages people to rethink whether home ownership is the way to go for everyone. He suggests that renting might be a better option for some people at certain points in their lives. Renting is better if your rent is very low, or if you plan on moving within a few years.

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