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Older Americans Still Worry About Costs, But Falling Gas Prices Provide Relief

A majority of Americans age 45 and over worry that they won’t be able to pay their health care expenses over the next 12 months, and one in three fears that mortgage or rent payments will become unaffordable, according to an AARP poll released Jan. 7.

Yet despite the pessimism, fewer people reported that they had difficulty paying certain bills later in 2008 than earlier in the year, according to the survey, which polled adults in December on how the economy affected their financial situation. A similar survey was done in April.

While more than half of older adults (52 percent) polled in December said they had more trouble paying for food, gas and medicine during the previous 12 months, this was down from 66 percent of respondents who said the same in April. Likewise, 44 percent of those polled last month said they found it more difficult to pay for utilities in the last year, compared with 53 percent of those polled in April.

Kathi Brown, an AARP researcher who led the survey, cites lower energy prices in the latter part of 2008, including the price of gas, for loosening up budgets so that people could better afford basic necessities.

The latest AARP poll also captured the angst of today’s workers. Of those polled in December, 16 percent said they lost a job in the previous 12 months, compared with 8 percent in the April poll. But nearly one-third (31 percent) fear losing their job in 2009.

The December survey of 1,097 adults also found that:

29 percent said they thought it was likely that their health insurance coverage would be reduced or dropped in the next 12 months;

59 percent said they were confident they’d have enough money to live comfortably in retirement, down from 68 percent in April;

57 percent of those who were employed or looking for work and who lost money in their investments over the past year said they expected to delay retirement and work longer;

36 percent of workers surveyed said they’d stopped putting money into their retirement accounts in the past 12 months.

Carole Fleck is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.


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