Poverty of the Elderly – Ivette Mota

Oftentimes, the elderly may choose to work into their retirement years in order to cover the cost of expenses; these may include healthcare, past debt, or to have enough to pay for their years of retirement. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), poverty rates for workers ages 65-74 were at 9.4 percent in 2009 and poverty rates for retirees ages were 10.7 percent.

Reasons for rising levels of poverty vary for different classes, gender and race. One of the most significant reasons for high rates would be the rising costs of healthcare. Likewise, medical costs rise with age as they are more prone to need care; and it becomes difficult for those under poverty lines to pay for any care. Another important factor in determining poverty rates are their sources of income. For many Social Security payments are based off of their income during their working years.  However, these payments are determined by the average of one’s 35 highest earning years. Those who have not worked for 35 years would see lower payments due. In addition, savings for retirement are very different between classes. For example, those with lower incomes would be less likely to save.

As stated, poverty does not affect men and women the same way, as most elderly women are living under the poverty line. This could be due to lower earnings during their lifetime or having to raise children (and grandchildren, if needed). In addition, people of color while receiving Social Security payments, may be less likely to have other retirement benefits. Perhaps it could be a problem of having less social capital and being less likely to have access to information regarding retirement income.

The issue of poverty within the elderly should be more than a concern for policy makers; it should also be of concern to those who will have retiring parents or who will be retirees themselves, as shown below. Seeing the problem now could be of great importance in preventing these issues for the future. 

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