Baby Boomers: Tackling Debt & Retirement

Third in a series ”How Much Debt is Too Much?” Read more about Personal Debt and Millennials and Gen Xers.

They’re 80 million strong – a generation born on the heels of World War II whose members have witnessed one Momentous social change after another. From the Civil Rights movement and the lunar landing, to the invention of everything from the TV to the iPhone, Baby Boomers have a rare vantage point not Available to younger generations.

But Baby Boomers do have something big in common with Generation X, Millennials and soon – Generation Z – a shared phenomenon that a growing number of Americans find it hard to manage.


In the endless cycle of borrowing and buying, Baby Boomers, like other generations, are juggling significant personal debt. According to Northwestern Mutual's 2018 Planning & Progress Study, the typical Boomer carries an average personal debt of $36,000, not including home mortgages. And while it’s less than the debt load experienced by Gen Xers or Millennials, it can be just as hard to eliminate.

“When we first entered the workforce and started buying things, it was much more common to pay with cash or a check,” said Bank of St. Francisville Customer Service Representative Bess Kelley, a Baby Boomer herself. “But things have really changed over the last few decades. Every time you turn around, a credit card company is sending you a pre-approved card in the mail. And life has just gotten a lot more expensive. It’s easy for people to get themselves into trouble.”

Bank of St. Francisville Customer Service Representative Bess Kelley

Debt is most concerning to Baby Boomers, of course, because they’re closer to retirement than other generations. More than likely, they’re earning as much as they’ll ever earn, and they’ve accumulated as much wealth as they’ll ever have. Paying down debt becomes a major priority as they head toward their golden years.

Consequently, personal debt has many Baby Boomers delaying retirement. Four in 10 Americans expect to work until age 70 or older, according to the Northwestern Mutual study. Working a few more years allows them to save more and to hang onto employee benefits like employer-matched retirement plans and private health insurance. Moreover, a large number of Baby Boomers are business owners – more so than any other generation – and it’s possible they need more time to pay off business debt, too.

Bank of St. Francisville offers a spectrum of products and services that can help customers reduce debt as they ease into retirement. Bess, who has worked for the bank for nearly 25 years, directs customers to BSF’s vast menu of services.

One option is a debt consolidation plan, which enables customers to pay off multiple, high-interest cards through a single bank loan that has a favorable interest rate.

For Baby Boomer looking for a simple savings vehicle to supplement their other strategies, a Certificate of Deposit (CD) could be good option, says Bess, since it pays a higher interest rate than a savings account.

Other customers may need more comprehensive planning services, and Bess refers them to Pam and Joe Malara, representatives of Cetera Investment Services, a full-service FINRA member broker-dealer based in Minnesota. Pam and Joe keep regularly scheduled office hours in the Bank of St. Francisville, or are available by appointment at (225) 635-0047 or (800) 901-0047.

Further Reading