Many Americans Over 65 Face Economic Insecurity, Even If They’re Healthy
The majority of Americans living alone are at risk of not being able to pay for basic needs.
That’s according to new estimates of financial insecurity among Americans 65 and older from the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
The Elder Index calculated by the university and other researchers tracks the income needed for older adults in good health. It shows that on average a single person without a mortgage requires $21,012 per year to pay for basic needs, or $31,800 per couple. Regional price variations change the estimates significantly.
The estimated budget covers basic needs such as housing and food but excludes vacations, restaurant meals or entertainment expenses. Regionally, the cost of living independently ranges from $21,504 for singles renting in Alabama to a high of $33,060 in the nation’s capital.
States in the Northeast comprise the majority of the 10 states with the largest elder economic insecurity rates. The costliest states also break down overwhelmingly as those that tend to vote Democratic, while the most affordable generally lean Republican.
Most older adults rely on Social Security as a key component of income, but on average more than half who live below the Elder Index rely on Social Security for at least 90% of their incomes.
“As an increasing number of Baby Boomers retire, we’ll see more and more Americans struggle to get by on just their Social Security checks,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, a Democrat and vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee, in emailed comments.
While the research highlights the economic security challenges for many older adults who live independently, the situation is likely even worse for those who aren’t in good health.
Almost one-fifth of Americans 65 and older are struggling with poor health, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in five reported “a lot of difficulty” and an additional four in 10 have “some difficulty” in at least one category including vision, hearing, mobility, communication, cognition and self-care. Such limitations likely add to expenses.
The CDC also found baby boomers are retiring in larger numbers and living longer. At age 75, men are projected to live an additional 11.3 years while the figure 13 years for women. Those estimates have risen from 8.8 years and 11.5 years since 1980.
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