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Millions of retirees can't afford basic living expenses, study finds

March 02, 2012|By Walter Hamilton, Los Angeles Times

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

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.

An additional 20 million seniors live with family members or in group settings such as nursing homes. They aren't included in the study.

The research firm 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.

The researchers compared that with 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 research firm.

Given that they've already retired, that means many seniors 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 research firm's chief executive.

California had the 11th-largest gap between income and expenses. Massachusetts had the biggest at $10,248. That was followed by the District of Columbia and New York.

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