A new report from the nonprofit National Institute on Retirement Security finds that increasing costs for housing, healthcare and long-term care are major burdens for older adults across the wealth spectrum.
The report, “The Growing Burden of Retirement: Rising Costs and More Risk Increase Uncertainty,” discusses research from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies showing that almost twice as many seniors (46%) reported having mortgage debt in 2016 compared with just 24% of older homeowners three decades ago. Additionally, the number of cost-burdened seniors — those paying more than 30% of their income on housing — grew by 200,000 to 10 million from 2016 to 2017. Of these, almost five million (50%) were severely burdened, according to the report.
In addition, healthcare costs continue to increase for all Americans. These costs, however, are higher for older Americans, who are more likely to have multiple chronic health conditions, the report noted. Further, lower-income seniors spend a greater proportion of their income on healthcare costs than their more affluent peers.
With seniors living longer and baby boomers retiring, NIRS also said it expects more Americans to need long-term care, such as a home health aide or a nursing home, and those costs likely will continue to rise. Approximately 10% of retirees will spend three years or more in a nursing home, with total costs typically exceeding $300,000 over that time, according to the report, which cited research from the Genworth Cost of Care Survey. That figure dwarfs the median retirement savings of workers aged 55 to 64, which is about $88,000, the authors said.
“Taken together, rising costs and the challenge of accumulating and investing savings are making retirement an unsolvable puzzle for most Americans,” said report co-author Tyler Bond, a research analyst at NIRS. “We’re on a path to a predictable and unfortunate outcome – millions of working Americans unable to meet their basic needs in retirement.
Creative solutions are beginning to emerge to help address these challenges, however, the authors noted. Last year, the state of Washington, for example, passed legislation to cover long-term care costs via a social insurance model. The private sector also is creating lifetime income options, expanding access to workplace plans. Experts also have proposed purchasing annuities via Social Security.