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Millions of retirees can't afford basic living expenses

March 01, 2012|By Walter Hamilton
  • Volunteers in Montebello Park put together groceries at a food giveaway for the needy.
Volunteers in Montebello Park put together groceries at a food giveaway… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

More than 9 million retired Americans don’t have enough money to cover basic living expenses, according to a new study.

Of the nearly 20 million older Americans who live alone or with a spouse, about 47% can’t afford everyday necessities such as proper nutrition and medical care, according to the analysis by Wider Opportunities for Women, a nonprofit research firm in Washington.

(Another 20 million seniors live with family members or in group settings such as nursing homes. They aren’t included in the study.)

The research organization used Census Bureau data to calculate median 2010 income levels for people 65 or older. Income came from a variety of sources, including Social Security, pensions and retirement savings.

It compared that to basic living expenses in individual states and determined the gap between the two.

Though there is a chasm between income and living expenses in every state, it’s especially pronounced in some urbanized states where the rising cost of living has outstripped the fixed incomes on which many seniors depend.

In California, for example, a single person renting an apartment would need an annual income of $25,884 to cover everyday needs. But median elder income is only $19,200, according to the group.

Given that they’ve already retired, that means the typical senior must cut expenses to bridge that gap of $6,684.

“This situation is dire and households are making untenable choices between paying the rent and buying nutritious food,” said Donna Addkison, the group’s chief executive.

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