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New Report Shows Millions 50+ Struggle With Financial Health

Limited-income adults are less secure than previous generations

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En español | Some 83 percent of low- and moderate-income adults 50 and older are struggling with at least some aspect of their financial lives, according to a new report funded by AARP Foundation. Just 17 percent are “financially healthy.” 

The report from the nonprofit Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) notes that while Americans in previous generations could retire debt-free with a pension plan and adequate health insurance, the financial situation is bleaker for today’s 50-and-older group.

“Today, the real story for Americans over 50 — especially those with limited incomes — is both less predictable and less secure,” the report says. “In contrast with previous generations, these Americans face higher costs of living, rising debt, changing living situations, the disappearance of defined benefit pension plans, and increased reliance on Social Security.”

Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of AARP Foundation, says, “The Great Recession and changes in the economic environment and job market have put special pressures on adults who are 50 and older. Many of them find themselves unable to save for retirement, or even to contemplate retirement, as they wrestle with debt and with earning enough money to meet even the most basic of needs.”

Other challenges, Ryerson says, are “layoffs, age discrimination in employment, dwindling savings, caregiving responsibilities, ever-rising health care costs and personal health setbacks.” 

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CFSI measured financial health by asking questions about income, spending, savings, debt, insurance, credit scores and ability to pay bills on time. According to the report, low- and moderate-income Americans face five financial challenges previous generations were less likely to encounter.

  • More than half (51 percent) are struggling with insufficient short-term emergency savings.
  • A significant number (39 percent) have debt they cannot manage and are forced to delay their retirement plans.
  • Many are not sufficiently protected from medical shocks because they don’t have a reliable source of income.
  • Many of those who retire struggle to make ends meet, and others are unable to retire completely and continue to work at odd jobs. 
  • Family obligations keep some from developing more financial security.

“We need to focus on the needs not just of those already living in poverty, but also the millions more who are only one life event away from slipping into poverty,” Ryerson says. 

“At AARP Foundation we seek remedies that equip low-income seniors with the skills and resources to increase their financial stability,” says Ryerson, “from teaching struggling job-seekers how to compete effectively for today’s in-demand jobs, to helping older adults build savings and establish healthy financial habits, and developing strategies to help make communities affordable, livable and healthy for everyone.”

AARP Foundation also works with financial services providers and other organizations to develop new solutions to help older adults recover and maintain financial security. 

See the full report here.