Gracefully segueing into a financially secure retirement is increasingly looking like an unattainable American dream.
In a new study, The Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) and AARP Foundation looked at the financial state of low and moderate income Americans 50 or older, and found that 83% of them are financially stressed.
That adds up to 42 million older people in a state of financial precariousness.
“What jumped out at me was the size of the problem,” says Emily Allen, senior vice president AARP Foundation Programs.
How a shock changes the plan
According to Allen, most lower-income older adults live within their means.
What throws them off, she says, are “interruptions”—often expensive health care costs, or layoffs.
Fifteen percent of study participants between 50 and 64 didn’t have health insurance. And even among those who did, barely half of those were somewhat or very confident that their policy would fully cover them in an emergency.
On the job front, a new report from the non-profit Urban Institute found that roughly half of American workers at least 50 years old had at least one involuntary job loss, and just one in 10 earned as much after landing a new job.
“Those shocks make it harder and harder to bounce back,” says Allen.
A recipe for vulnerability
Although the CFSI/AARP study focused on lower-earning older Americans, their struggles are not dissimilar from the population at large.
Only a quarter of households in the survey had any emergency savings: of those who had saved, about half had less than three months of expenses tucked away. Four out of five reported having debt, and six out of ten lacked any kind of workplace retirement account or IRA.
Yet that’s not so far from the numbers of higher-earning Americans of all ages (annual salary $50,000+) polled by MassMutual, in a study published in November. More than half of those in the study did not have sufficient emergency funds, with just one in four households reporting they have six months of living costs set aside: Two-thirds weren’t confident that they were prepared for retirement.
But younger folks, at least, are on the receiving end of gobs of FinTech aimed at helping them automate their savings
Experts at the CFSI and AARP Foundation say they’re looking to reengineer the technology to appeal to older folks. “It’s not about giving them the same technology as millennials,” says Allen. “You need a different user interface so they can see themselves in the technology.”
For now, however, Americans age 65 and older do have a helping hand in the forms of Social Security and Medicare.
An earlier version of the CFSI and AARP Foundation study that looked at all income levels found that just 30% of respondents age 50-64 were categorized as being “financially healthy.” But that rose to nearly 50% by age 65 and older, when they were qualified for both Social Security and Medicare.