Aging Americans In Unforgiving Economy

Too poor to retire, too young to die…

LA TMES:   At the wise age of 79, Dolores Westfall knows food shopping on an empty stomach is a fool’s errand. On her way to the grocery store last May, she pulled into the Town & Country Family Restaurant to take the edge off her appetite.  After much consideration, she ordered the prime rib special and an iced tea — expensive at $21.36, but the leftovers, wrapped carefully to go, would provide two more lunches.

The problem, she later realized, was that a big insurance bill was coming due. How was she going to pay it? Was she going to tip into insolvency over a plate of prime rib?

“I thought I could handle eating and shopping,” she said, “but lunch put me over the top.”

Westfall is as stubborn as she is high-spirited. But she finds herself these days in a precarious place: Her savings long gone, and having never done much long-term financial planning, Westfall left her home in California to live in an aging RV she calls Big Foot, driving from one temporary job to the next.   She’s worked as a cavern tour guide, resort receptionist, crowd control officer, hustling clerk at an Amazon warehouse. Others like her have cleaned toilets, picked beets, plucked chickens.

Her monthly income consists of $1,200 in Social Security and a $190 pension, plus pay from her seasonal jobs. She owes $50,000 on her credit cards. There’s also a $268 monthly loan payment for her aging rig.

She endures what is for many aging Americans an unforgiving economy. Nearly one-third of U.S. heads of households ages 55 and older have no pension or retirement savings and a median annual income of about $19,000.

A growing proportion of the nation’s elderly are like Westfall: too poor to retire and too young to die.

Many rely on Social Security and minimal pensions, in part because half of all workers have no employer-backed retirement plans. Eight in 10 Americans say they will work well into their 60s or skip retirement entirely.

Read more about Delores Westfall’s story here:   http://graphics.latimes.com/retirement-nomads/#nt=outfit

 

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