Get Out of Debt Guy

I'm 82-Years-Old. Should I Even Repay My Debt?

Posted May 11


Dear Steve,

I use credit karma to check my credit which is 680 with Experian and 660 with TransUnion.

Three years ago I did not have money to pay my credit cards and they were sent into the credit bureau. Not all to Experian. More to Trans union. I’m 82 years old on fixed income. I saw lawyers and they said by having no assets I am uncollectible. Are they right or wrong? Please advise.



Dear Joseph,

First off, thank you so much for reaching out to me for help and advice.

So the credit bureaus simply report the information given to them. They don’t collect.

If you have no assets to go after or garnish then you are what people call Judgment Proof. That does not mean you can’t be sued over a bad debt, it just means they could never collect on the suit even if they won.

If you’ve already conferred with an attorney who is licensed in your state and they confirmed you are uncollectible or Judgment Proof then the easiest thing to do at this point would be nothing.

There is little to no benefit in maintaining a good credit score at this point. Since you are living on a fixed income I doubt you are going to go out and try to get credit or apply for home or car insurance.

The fixed income situation generally tells me your monthly budget is tight already so promising to make any payments on any of that debt is an emotional choice, not necessarily a logical one. You need your limited income to survive.

The reality is you can’t promise to repay a debt with money you don’t have. Another reality is to consider how likely it is you will be able to make a dent in the debt based on your age and resources.

While bankruptcy is always the best tool to use to close the door on debt you will never be able to resolve, another solution if you are uncollectible is to just do nothing.

If you follow this approach you will need to be 100 percent focused on not making any promise to pay on your debts and you will need fortitude to not be intimidated by collectors. You may be sued over the unpaid debts and the creditor may win a judgment but while they may threaten and try to frighten you into paying, as the lawyer said, you may be unable to be collected from, have income garnished, or bank accounts levied.

Now, all of that being said, I remain in favor of people in situations like yours to strongly consider bankruptcy to close the door on the debt legally, swiftly and, cleanly. Once you file bankruptcy and the debt is legally discharged you not only have the power of the law to protect you but you also have your bankruptcy attorney to call for legal advice in case anyone tried to intimidate you into paying afterwards. Hey, it happens some times.

I worry about people as they age becoming confused by the threatening fake debt collector calls and promising to make payments they don’t have to. I’ve watched enough people fall for telemarketing scams when they are about your age or older. They are easy targets.

I am in no way trying to insinuate you are not able to handle the calls and deal with the bad debt as you continue to age. But I am saying in general, it can be a problem for many very smart people who are easy to frighten as they get older.

I’ve spent a fair bit of time in assisted living facilities and senior housing, helping people. Many are just no longer capable of making great choices about dealing with emotionally intense money troubles.

At this point the top priority must be to help you to live safely on your fixed income and not repay debt you simply can’t afford to at the cost of your health and safety.

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy.


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About this Blog:

Steve Rhode has had careers in opthalmology, real estate and as the head of a nonprofit debt counseling firm. On his blog, he offers hard-won, free advice about getting out of debt, consolidation and making the right choices as you manage your money.