Risk Retirement for a Loved One?

An idealized retirement story might sound like this: Saving for years, retiring from work, then taking planned withdrawals on through retirement. It sounds orderly and easy, yet many retirees know it is anything but.

Emergencies arise, not only in a retiree’s life, but also in the lives of loved ones. Ordinary life includes a leaky roof, a needy middle-aged son or daughter, or a troubled grandchild. If retirees have savings, even if they rely on them for monthly living, there is the ever-present urge to liquidate savings and put some money on the problem.

An Ugly Trick

There is an ugly trick with the urge to be generous, and it’s subtle.

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The Oldest Generation—Income, Location, Disabilities, and Health Insurance

Last time we introduced a Census Bureau report that describes some characteristics of the oldest segment of our population—those 90 years old or older (90+). The group is small, mostly women, and mostly widowed. Still, about three-quarters of them live in households. Less than one quarter are institutionalized.

The median income in the group was $14,760 (2008 dollars)—that’s annual, per person, personal income. For men, it was $20,133, and for women, it was $13,580. Social Security has become nearly universal among this group: 92.3% of them receive it, and it is about 48%, or almost half, of the median personal income. The rest comes from investments, public assistance, other retirement income, or other sources.

During the same time, the median annual per person income in the US was about $27,500. The 90+ group has a per person income of about half the overall population.

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