Baby boomers living on $1,000 a month in Social Security share their retirement experience: ‘I never imagined being in this position.’

    For many boomers without retirement savings, Social Security isn’t enough to cover daily expenses.

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    More than half of baby boomers have less than $250,000 in assets, per Retirement Income Institute. With limited savings, older adults are dependent on just over $1,000 monthly in Social Security.For many, Social Security income is insufficient to cover groceries, healthcare, and bills. 

    Virginia Hambrick, 66, is retired but worried she will have to return to work. Her savings are long gone, and her $1,625 monthly Social Security check isn’t nearly enough to support her and her husband’s expenses.

    The couple lives in a rural area about 50 miles outside Tulsa, Oklahoma. Hambrick had a long career in the manufacturing and hospitality industries but retired in the early 2010s with limited savings. Her husband has been caring for sick relatives for the past several years and doesn’t have an income. Additionally, he’s 57 and his Social Security check won’t kick in until he’s at least 62.

    Hambrick needs more money. Every day, it’s difficult to scrape together enough food to eat and her bills feel never-ending. But, even if she were to find a job, Hambrick worries about maintaining it. She can’t afford a car or gas to drive anywhere, and she doubts she could work in retail or food service because she struggles to stand for hours at a time.

    “If somebody wants to work around my limitations, then they would have a totally dedicated employee,” Hambrick previously told Business Insider.

    Hambrick’s story echoes that of many American baby boomers. The country is facing a retirement crisis, and millions of older adults don’t have the savings or assets to support themselves when they are no longer earning a paycheck.

    Per Northwestern Mutual, it costs about $1.5 million per person to comfortably retire in America, more if you live in a high-cost-of-living city.

    But there’s a disconnect. Fifty-two percent of boomers have $250,000 or less in retirement assets, per an April report from the Retirement Income Institute, the retirement-focused research arm of the Alliance for Lifetime Income. And, the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey found that more than half of Americans over 65 have an annual income of $30,000 or less. This pushes some older adults close to the federal poverty line.

    Perhaps most vulnerable to this retirement crisis are “peak boomers,” the last members of the generation who turn 65 this year. They are feeling the fallout of America’s 1980s switch from government pensions to employee-funded 401(k)s, and hope not to be financial burdens on their adult children. The group also faces uncertainty over Social Security — the average check in 2024 is $1,907 but the federal fund could start shrinking by 2030.

    With drained savings accounts, growing debt, and limited assets, some older adults like Hambrick are clinging to their monthly Social Security checks. But for many, it isn’t enough.

    “I never imagined being in this position,” Hambrick said.

    With no savings, older adults depend on Social Security

    Mary Dacus, 69, thought she would have a savings account at this point in her life. She and her husband, Stephen, felt comfortable for a few years after they stopped working several years ago. But, as their retirement funds depleted and inflation drove up their expenses, Dacus said they now barely have enough money to live every day.

    Dacus and Stephen live in Robinson, Illinois, on their combined monthly Social Security income of $2,140. They have no money in case of an emergency and are nearly $10,000 in debt because they feel forced to pay grocery, housing, and healthcare bills on their credit cards.

    Dacus often has to rely on food pantries to make sure she and Stephen have enough to eat — they only receive $23 a month in SNAP benefits and it “barely covers one meal,” she said. Sometimes, she has to request an advance on their Social Security checks so they can pay for their meals or utilities.

    And, Dacus worries that Stephen’s recent cancer diagnosis could be financially “catastrophic” because they don’t have Medicaid and Medicare won’t cover long-term treatment.

    Looming Social Security cuts in the next decade are a source of constant anxiety for Dacus.

    “It scares us to death because we’ll still be here, God-willing,” she previously told BI. “How are we to survive?”

    To be sure, some older adults feel financially secure in retirement. Due to strong company 401(k) matches or savvy investments, they have savings and assets, and aren’t dependent on Social Security — some are even able to retire early.

    It can be difficult for boomers to qualify for assistance, even with a low-income

    Angela Babin feels stuck. The 62-year-old lives alone in a mobile home in Houma, Louisiana, about 60 miles southwest of New Orleans. She receives $1,104 a month in Social Security.

    Babin lost most of her would-be retirement savings and assets in a divorce about 16 years ago, and stopped working earlier than she planned because of health complications. She now lives paycheck to paycheck — and $1,000 a month it isn’t enough to cover her food, car, or utility bills. Her home was also badly damaged three years ago by Hurricane Ida, and she can’t afford the necessary repairs, which she said state emergency funds won’t fully cover.

    “I don’t want to be rich, I just need to be comfortable,” she previously told BI. “I just want to know that I can have food when I need it and a nice roof over my head.”

    Babin said it’s especially difficult for older adults to qualify for government assistance even if their Social Security income doesn’t cover basic necessities. She’s often worried about having enough to eat: the $28 a month she receives from SNAP covers bread, milk, and coffee, but little else. When she can visit a food pantry, the food is often spoiled, she said.

    Even without savings, Babin doesn’t qualify for many of America’s safety nets. Programs that could supplement her income, like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and some tax credits are set up for parents with dependent children.

    As an older adult, she doesn’t know who to ask for help. She said she “has to survive” but is losing hope that her situation will change.

    Some older adults didn’t expect to struggle in retirement

    Boomers are staring down an uncertain future. Hambrick, Dacus, and Babin all told BI that they don’t feel like they are overspending. But limited government assistance, insufficient funds from Social Security, and no savings to fall back on aren’t enough to pay bills.

    In retirement, Hambrick thought she would be “traveling to new places and having fun with my husband.” She never thought she would have to start submitting job applications.

    “A lot of people think that, with Social Security, you get this big check, and you can move to Florida, and you could buy a boat and go fishing,” Dacus said. “That’s not what it is.”

    Are you an older adult living on Social Security? Are you open to sharing how you’re saving for retirement? If so, reach out to this reporter at [email protected].

    Read the original article on Business Insider


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