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Pay Down Your Debt Challenge

Become Debt-Free This Year

Join the AARP Pay Down Your Debt Challenge on Jan. 2, and make a plan to pay off your credit card bills, other loans and debts

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En español | Have you made a money-related New Year's resolution? If so, you're not alone. A recent poll from TD Ameritrade found that 73 percent of Americans have made at least one New Year's resolution tied to their personal finances.

Topping the list of financial goals: save more money, get out of debt and plan for a secure retirement.

Sign up for the AARP Money Newsletter.

Here's the stark reality: A growing number of people aged 50 and older are ensnared by debt of all kind: mortgages, credit card debt, auto loans and even student loans. Older Americans are increasingly filing for bankruptcy protection as a way to get rid of certain unmanageable debts, such as credit card payments and medical bills.

According to the Consumer Bankruptcy Project, a sharp uptick in credit card debt and medical debt has led to a dramatic rise in the number of Americans 55 and older declaring bankruptcy. For instance, from 1991 to 2007, the percentage of bankruptcy petitioners between the ages of 65 and 74 skyrocketed 178 percent.

A 2010 study from the University of Michigan Law School, called The Rise in Elder Bankruptcy Filings, revealed that Americans 65 and older are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population declaring bankruptcy. Also, the Washington, D.C.-based public policy group Demos reports that Americans 65 and above who carry a balance on their credit cards owe an average of $10,235 — up 26 percent from 2005.

Lynette Khalfani-Cox- pay down your debt

Lynnette Khalfani-Cox paid off over $100,000 of personal debt. — Photo by: Michael JN Bowles

I know what it's like to struggle with massive debts, and to wonder how you're going to get rid of those burdens. I'm living proof of how you can become debt-free.

In 2001, I had $100,000 in credit card bills. I knew that bankruptcy was an option, but I resolved to tackle my debts head on — and pay them all off. I did just that, wiping out all $100,000 in credit card debt in just three years.

Afterward, I wrote a book about it, called Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom, so others struggling with debt could see how they could pay off their debt.

Next: How Lynette plans to help you. >>

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Savings Challenge

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Pay Down Your Debt Challenge

Join our challenge July 18-Aug. 14 and start your debt-free journey. Discuss