College graduates represent the fastest growing demographic of consumers who have filed for bankruptcy over the past five years, according to a new report out Tuesday.
Wait, really? Our high school guidance counselors always told us that a college degree guaranteed financial success down the road.
Not necessarily so, according to the survey by the Institute for Financial Literacy, which found that wealthier, more educated households are driving the recent spike in bankruptcy filings.
“We’re told that if you do go and get advanced education, you’re going to be almost guaranteed this economic success,” Leslie Linfield, the group’s executive director, told the Washington Post, which got an early look at the report. Linfield added that the recession proved that “higher education was no guarantee that you weren’t going to be at risk.”
The percentage of debtors with bachelor’s degrees rose from 11.2 percent to 13.6 percent between 2006 and 2010, and debtors with graduate degrees increased from 4.9 percent to 6.7 percent. In the same span, there was a decline in the percentage of bankruptcy filers who didn’t finish college, though they still accounted for about a third of all bankruptcies, the Post reports.
The institute also found sharp changes in the ages of consumers filing for bankruptcy. While the number of consumers between 18 and 34 who have filed since 2006 has fallen 31 percent, the amount of people 55 and older who have filed has increased 25 percent.
Linfield said that although credit cards and unsecured loans are generally what cause most people to file, hefty mortgages and falling home values are also contributing to the current rise in bankruptcies. More than 70 percent of bankrupted consumers blame their current troubles on being overextended in credit.
Still, Linfield thinks we may have seen the worst of it as the number of bankruptcies across the board is beginning to drop. Research from the American Bankruptcy Institute supports Linfield’s hunch, reporting an 11-percent drop in August bankruptcies from a year ago as consumers are learning to embrace the shock, slowing down their spending to balance their personal funds.