Retirement

Report: 60% of Older Women Can't Afford Basics

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The annual income of the typical older woman was $14,000 in 2010, compared with the older man's $24,300, finds a March 29 report from Wider Opportunities for Women. More elderly women live alone, which contributes to their financial insecurity.

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High Cost of Living Alone

Living alone also contributes to women's economic insecurity. Fifty-six percent of older women live by themselves, compared with 67 percent of older men. Even among the oldest people –age 85 and older – 60 percent of men live with a spouse while 83 percent of women live alone.

In addition to spending less per person on housing, food and other necessities, older couples also report median household incomes that are more than twice their single counterparts ($40,400 versus $18,000).

The report found that women are more likely to be renters than men. Thirty-two percent of single women rent, 51 percent own their homes with a mortgage and 14 percent own their homes outright. Among women in couples, 8 percent rent, 68 percent own a home with a mortgage and 22 percent own their homes outright.

Older people who rent are vulnerable to dramatic changes in housing costs, the researchers noted. Retired adults living on fixed incomes often find themselves quickly priced out of rental markets. As a result, 74 percent of older people who rent have incomes that fall short of economic security.

Owning a home with a mortgage also can bring economic insecurity, the report found. Older people who own their homes with a mortgage require the highest incomes to be economically secure--about $10,000 more per year than those who own their homes outright. However, older people in this group also reported the highest median incomes of any housing status.

The Elder Index was developed by WOW and the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Elder Index data for all states and counties in the United States can be obtained from WOW's Economic Security Database.

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Sharon Johnson is a New York-based freelance writer.

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