New report shows seniors' economic security falling

July 19, 2011

Outliving one's resources and falling into poverty is an increasingly common experience among today's senior citizens, according to a new report produced jointly by the Heller School's Institute on Assets and Social Policy and the public policy research and advocacy organization Demos.

And, researchers say, the situation could deteriorate further if cuts in are made.

The report, "From Bad to Worse: Senior Economic Insecurity On the Rise," found that seniors have too few resources and too little time to plan for a fulfilling retirement.

In only four years, the ranks of seniors at risk of outliving their resources increased by nearly 2 million households. Using the Senior Index, economic insecurity among senior households increased by one-third, rising from 27 percent to 36 percent from 2004 to 2008. This steady and dramatic increase was in progress even before the full force of the Great Recession hit.

While effects of the hit all , the of seniors has deteriorated more than the security of other groups. In addition to the one of every three seniors who is economically insecure, 40 percent of senior households are financially vulnerable - neither secure nor insecure according to the Senior Index. Thus, three-quarters of all have little or no buffer against financial ruin should they be faced with an unexpected illness or other traumatic life event.

In the hardest hit senior populations in America - households of color and senior single women - 50 percent fall into this economically insecure category, unsure of how to finance even the most basic necessities.

To stem the growing crisis, the report proposes:

  • strengthening Social Security for vulnerable groups, such as low-income earners and those with sporadic attachment to the labor market due to caregiving and other responsibilities.
  • supporting a strong Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program (CLASS Act) to enable working adults the opportunity to plan for future long-term care needs, such as in-home services, adult day health or institutional care.
"It's simply a crime that in our wealthy and vibrant nation 36 percent of seniors live in a state of uncertainty - unsure of whether they can afford basic necessities," says Tatjana Meschede, research director at the Institute on Assets and Social Policy and co-author of the report.

"Instead of working to fix this crisis, the debate in Washington is dominated by those who argue that the only way to reduce the deficit is by dramatically altering Medicare and Social Security," she said. "These reckless proposals will only worsen current trends and further undermine the economic prospects of future seniors."

Jennifer Wheary, Demos senior fellow, says millions of seniors in America live day to day; this is a multigenerational problem, not a senior problem.

"We cannot end senior economic insecurity without addressing the early sources of this grave issue," says Wheary. "We must take steps to strengthen pension provisions to ensure the stability of employer and employee investments if we want to ensure millions retire with the funds they need and deserve."

Explore further: Living longer on less: The new economic (in)security of seniors in Massachusetts

Related Stories

American seniors living longer on less, study

January 28, 2009

Older Americans have experienced huge, negative financial shifts that now make it more difficult to enter retirement with sustainable economic security, a new study finds. Seventy-eight percent of all senior households are ...

Recommended for you

Metacognition training boosts gen chem exam scores

October 20, 2017

It's a lesson in scholastic humility: You waltz into an exam, confident that you've got a good enough grip on the class material to swing an 80 percent or so, maybe a 90 if some of the questions go your way.

Scientists see order in complex patterns of river deltas

October 19, 2017

River deltas, with their intricate networks of waterways, coastal barrier islands, wetlands and estuaries, often appear to have been formed by random processes, but scientists at the University of California, Irvine and other ...

Six degrees of separation: Why it is a small world after all

October 19, 2017

It's a small world after all - and now science has explained why. A study conducted by the University of Leicester and KU Leuven, Belgium, examined how small worlds emerge spontaneously in all kinds of networks, including ...

Ancient DNA offers new view on saber-toothed cats' past

October 19, 2017

Researchers who've analyzed the complete mitochondrial genomes from ancient samples representing two species of saber-toothed cats have a new take on the animals' history over the last 50,000 years. The data suggest that ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

0.4 / 5 (38) Jul 19, 2011
In the Libertarian/Randite economic model, seniors who can not afford to support themselves should die in the gutter where they belong.

1 / 5 (3) Jul 19, 2011
In a libertarian world, a social security trust fund would have been a real trust fund with real money in a bank account the govt couldn't take.
And medical costs would be significantly reduced as the govt wouldn't be wasting money on Medicare fraud and there would be real competition in the health care industry.

Anyone recall how many seniors died in France during an Aug heatwave a few years ago?

In many parts of the world, parents have many children and the children are expected to care for their parents.
But that is not the 'progressive' way.
0.4 / 5 (38) Jul 19, 2011
Poor RyggTard, he just doesn't understand how banks work.

They take the deposits they are given and loan them out to other people. And without government regulation requiring them to hold a minimum of 10% of the money deposited as a deposit, they would be free to loan it all out.

Social Security was never intended to be a bank account RyggTard. It has from the beginning been a means of stimulating economic growth, and by doing so secure the tax base needed to pay for the Social Security outlays.

Over the years I have noted that a very large percentage of (Libertarian/Randite/TeaPublican)'s have a near zero understanding of economics, and are often find simple arithmetic such as adding and subtracting to be a challenge to a near impossibility.

You seem to be among them.

"In a libertarian world, a social security trust fund would have been a real trust fund with real money in a bank account the govt couldn't take." - RyggTard
1 / 5 (2) Jul 19, 2011
The 'progressives' understanding of economics has led to our present situation: bankrupt retirement systems, bankrupt Medicare, and bankrupt countries. They really understand economics.
Of course the govt controlled central banks want to inflate the currency, decreasing its value, discouraging savings and encouraging spending and more credit. (I thought 'progressives' were opposed to conspicuous consumption.)
With a stable, none inflationary money supply, savings is encouraged, with a bit of deflation, money increases in value and goods decrease in value. It works in the electronics business.
Social Security was never intended to be a bank account

Of course not. But if it were, the govt couldn't take it and people could pass it on to their children.
What has been proven to stimulate economic growth is lower tax rates and lower govt spending. 'Progressives' want to raise tax rates and raise govt spending which has been PROVEN to lead to recession and depressions
5 / 5 (1) Jul 20, 2011

Having to rely on the market to provide for retirement would leave a lot of folks in a bad way, as was just recently demonstrated when the economy imploded, chiefly because of very poor investment "market" regulation.

This probably would account for why we see so much of your spotty backside exposed here so frequently.

You have my permission to take that little observation to the Bank -or "market" or whatever you want to call it- and see where you are at down the road.

I believe I've pretty well summed up the flaw in your argument, but feel free to try to provoke as much comment as you can.


0.3 / 5 (37) Jul 20, 2011
RyggTard needs to explain the following statement from one of his conservative Libertarian brothers in crime.

"We need to manufacture an (economic) crisis in order to assure that there are no alternatives to a smaller government." - Jeb Bush - Imprimus Magazine - 1995

Here the brother of George Bush is outlining the Libertarian Republican plan to bankrupt the federal government through conservative fiscal policy.

This Republican treason was summed up in the Republican Congressional policy known as "starve the beast".

"Starving the beast" is a fiscal-political strategy of some American conservatives[1][2] to cut taxes, depriving the government of revenue that enables spending on social programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, in an effort to create a fiscal budget crisis that would then force the federal government to reduce social and other spending considered undesirable by conservatives.

0.3 / 5 (37) Jul 20, 2011
Starve the Beast...

Progressive Economist Paul Krugman summarized the strategy in February 2010: "Rather than proposing unpopular spending cuts, Republicans would push through popular tax cuts, with the deliberate intention of worsening the governments fiscal position. Spending cuts could then be sold as a necessity rather than a choice, the only way to eliminate an unsustainable budget deficit." He wrote that the "...beast is starving, as planned..." and that "Republicans insist that the deficit must be eliminated, but theyre not willing either to raise taxes or to support cuts in any major government programs. And theyre not willing to participate in serious bipartisan discussions, either, because that might force them to explain their plan and there isnt any plan, except to regain power."
0.2 / 5 (35) Jul 21, 2011
RyggTard would apparently rather not try to defend his ideology's treason against the American State.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.