Institute on Assets and Social Policy

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Senior Economic Security

For senior citizens, especially single women or senior citizens of color, economic developments in recent years have put their financial security increasingly at risk. Seniors at risk of outliving their resources have increased by nearly 2 million households in just the past four years. IASP’s researchers study the long-term economic stability and risk of seniors, and explore policies that can help advance the asset security and financial stability of older Americans.

Middle Class Retirement Security

IASP, in collaboration with Demos, created the Middle Class Security Index (MCSI), a comprehensive multi-dimensional measure of middle class economic security and risk.  Using Consumer Expenditure Survey (CEX) data from 2004, the MCSI combines data on education, assets, housing, budgets, and healthcare to determine thresholds for optimal economic security, and risk to falling out of the middle class.  Updated with 2006 CEX, IASP and Demos also released trends on middle class security for all middle class households and for middle class households of color. Middle class families are increasingly challenged to prepare for security in retirement.  This index examines areas of vulnerability for middle-income households, suggesting a range of policy and educational implications to improve their future security.  Click to read more.

Senior Financial Stability Index

Our nation’s commitment to ensuring senior economic security was put in practice through the implementation of Social Security and Medicare.  These policies, combined with employer-based pensions and personal savings, kept a majority of senior citizens in the second half of the 20th century out of poverty as they aged.  Even though not all benefited equally—notably seniors of color were less likely to be covered by Social Security and had less access to pensions—this configuration of public policies and private programs set the stage and promise for economic stability for many older citizens.  Today, conditions have changed and the convergence of increased longevity, the weakening of pension incomes, declining employer-based retirement savings, and dramatically rising expenses for healthcare and housing, which deplete savings at an alarming rate, are eroding past promises of economic security and stability in this population’s older years.  Standing fast to the nation’s social contract of economic security and dignity in older age requires meeting the challenge of changing conditions. Click to read more.

Living Longer on Less Series:

Rising Economic Insecurity among Senior Single Women (October 2011). Nearly half (47%) of all senior single women in America do not have adequate retirement resources to meet even their most basic needs for the remainder of their lives, and this number is rising. This distressing statistic is among the findings from a report released by IASP and Dēmos, the latest in the Living Longer on Less series. This report finds that rising housing expenses, fixed and inadequate household budgets, and very low levels of retirement assets are contributing to rapidly rising economic insecurity among senior single women. Single women are especially vulnerable to economic insecurity in retirement due to the limited lifetime asset building capacity many women face, driven by the persistent wage gap, high levels of part-time work and ineligibility for retirement benefits, as well as extended periods out of the labor force due to family care-giving duties.

The Crisis of Economic Insecurity for African-American and Latino Seniors (September 2011). New research from IASP and Dēmos reveals crisis levels of economic insecurity among current African-American and Latino seniors. The latest report in the Living Longer on Less series, “The Crisis of Economic Insecurity for African-American and Latino Seniors,” found that 52% of African-American and 56% of Latino Seniors do not have adequate retirement resources to meet their basic needs throughout their expected life-spans. Driven by extremely low levels of asset wealth and high housing costs, most seniors of color are struggling financially during their elder years. Forced to rely on adult children and public programs just to get by, these distressing statistics both exacerbate and are a by-product of the growing racial wealth gap.

From Bad to Worse: Senior Economic Insecurity on the Rise (July 2011) IASP's and Dēmos' newest report in the Living Longer on Less series. "From Bad to Worse: Senior Economic Insecurity on the Rise" shows a troublesome trend of increased economic insecurity among senior households in just four years (2004-2008). Economic insecurity among seniors increased by one-third, from 27% to 36%. These statistics are especially of concern because today's seniors are better prepared for retirement than subsequent generations will be, mostly due to the decline in employer based retirement savings and rising debt experienced by the younger households.

Severe Financial Insecurity Among African American and Latino Seniors (May 2010) This new report in the Living Longer on Less series, released by IASP and Dēmos finds that 91% of both African American and Latino seniors face financial vulnerability. Lack of assets and housing expenses are the leading causes for the high financial insecurity among seniors of color. These findings reveal that African Americans and Latinos are particularly at-risk of poverty and financial instability in their later years. This report identifies policy action for comprehensive reforms that support working age adults and help families prepare for retirement.

Living Longer on Less in Massachusetts: The New Economic (In)security of Seniors (March 2009) This IASP report finds that 68% of all senior households in Massachusetts are financially vulnerable, lacking sufficient resources to meet essential expenses and cover projected costs over their lifetimes. Economic insecurity is particularly pronounced for Massachusetts' single senior households -- with 82% among them fancying financial insecurity. These ominous trends for older adults have been accelerated by the current economic crisis, increasing the urgency to stabilize and enhance retirement resources. Future retirees will be worse off unless we attend to policies that grow their resources for the future, and combat the rising costs of essential expenses for seniors.

Living Longer on Less: The New Economic (In)Security of Seniors (January 2009) This new report by IASP and Dēmos finds that 78% of all senior households are financially vulnerable when it comes to their ability to meet essential expenses and cover projected costs over their lifetimes. Economic insecurity is particularly pronounced for single senior households with 84% among them facing financial insecurity. These sobering statistics serve as an economic distress signal for older Americans and a wake-up call for younger and middle-aged Americans.

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