BUSINESS

Report: Seniors increasingly struggling with debt, bankruptcy

10/31/2014 02:49 EDT | Updated 12/31/2014 05:59 EST
OTTAWA - The country's growing cohort of senior citizens is carrying more debt into retirement and increasingly declaring bankruptcy, says a report prepared for the federal government.

The need to support dependent adult children who are taking longer to find work is contributing to the trend, says the study conducted for the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

The report, prepared by market research firm The Strategic Council, also said declining numbers of seniors are in registered pension plans. There's also evidence of growing income inequality among those 65 and older.

"Demographic, economic and even behavioural trends suggest that the current landscape for Canadians as they head into their retirement years is challenging," the study found.

Seniors are also struggling with so-called financial literacy, experiencing difficulties staying on top of their financial affairs with advancing age, the report says. They are also far more vulnerable to financial scams.

The report recommended that financial literacy strategies should take into account ageism, the stigmatization of older people, health status and elder abuse.

Many seniors are unfamiliar with the online world, which contributes to their struggles to manage finances, the study also found.

"The issue of digital literacy was raised a number of times by several experts as being the single largest obstacle or barrier for many seniors in terms of improving their financial literacy and their financial management skills," it read.

Susan Eng, vice-president for advocacy at CARP, said the study reflects what her organization is tackling.

"Not only do seniors not have enough money saved for their own retirements, but as they try to invest for their retirement, they are often vulnerable to shark activity by financial advisers," she said.

"They are losing their life savings, and that concerns us the most."

The number of Canadians working past the age of 65 has almost doubled over the last seven years. There are now close to 600,000 seniors still in the workforce.

Eng says governments of all levels must do more to encourage registered pension plans, and to crack down on financial predators who target seniors.

Follow Lee-Anne Goodman on Twitter @leeanne25