Economic Security for Seniors: Fact Sheet
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Economic Security for Seniors: Fact Sheet


NCOA Fact Sheets

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Retirement is not “golden” for all older adults. Over 23 million Americans aged 60+ are economically insecure—living at or below 250% of the federal poverty level (FPL) ($28,725 per year for a single person). These older adults struggle each day with rising housing and health care bills, inadequate nutrition, lack of access to transportation, diminished savings, and job loss. For older adults who are above the poverty level, one major adverse life event can change today’s realities into tomorrow’s troubles.

Poverty Measures

  • Almost 75% of single Social Security recipients aged 65+ depend on Social Security for all or most of their monthly income. (Social Security Administration)
  • The FPL does not account for the rising cost of living seniors experience as they age, which can include illness, loss of a spouse, or care for a disabled spouse, adult dependent child, or grandchildren.
  • More accurate measures of economic wellbeing—including Wider Opportunities for Women’s Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index and the Institute on Assets and Social Policy’s Senior Financial Stability Index—show millions of older adults struggling to meet their monthly expenses, even though they’re not considered “poor” because they live above the FPL, which is $11,490 for a single elder.

Income & Employment

  • The average older adults receiving Supplemental Security Income receives just $423 each month. (Social Security Administration)
  • Older women typically receive about $4,000 less annually in Social Security than older men due to lower lifetime earnings, time taken off for caregiving, occupational segregation into lower wage work, and other issues. Older women of color fare even worse. (Wider Opportunities for Women)
  • By January 2012, older workers displaced in the years following the recession were half as likely to have regained employment as the nationwide average. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • Older workers of color are most at risk for unemployment, with older African American men twice as likely to be unemployed as older white men. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Debt & Savings

  • One-third of senior households has no money left over each month or is in debt after meeting essential expenses. (Institute on Assets and Social Policy)
  • In 2012, the average credit card debt among adults aged 65+ was $9,283. (Demos)
  • 14% of adults aged 65+ face retirement with negative net worth, contributing to a rise in bankruptcies that has grown at the fastest pace ever due to high credit card debt and debts against their home. (Aging and Bankruptcy, U.S. Courts)

Health & Nutrition

  • Over 27% of older adults living in poverty were at risk for hunger in 2011. (National Foundation to End Senior Hunger) 
  • Only one-third of eligible older adults (age 60+) are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps).
  • The average senior in good health needs to spend about #381/month to cover basic health needs. This includes Medicare premiums, supplemental coverage, co-pays, and out-of-pocket costs. This figure increases to $511/month for a senior in poor health. (Gerontology Institute)


  • As of December 2011, 16% of older homeowners owed more on their house than it was worth. (AARP)
  • A majority of older adults have unsustainable housing costs, with 59% of older renters and 33% of homeowners with mortgages spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs. (AARP)
  • 44% of African American and 37% of Latino seniors either rent or have no home equity. (Institute on Assets & Social Policy)

NCOA’s Role

NCOA offers several programs and products that provide hope for economically insecure older adults.

Economic Security Initiative

This initiative offers innovative programs in 20 communities to help economically disadvantaged older adults cut through red tape and create a plan to build their own economic stability and security. The service includes one-on-one assistance, counseling, and follow-up as they find job training, assistance with health care and prescription drugs, housing and nutrition programs, and financial planning.


Developed and maintained by the National Council on Aging, EconomicCheckUp® is the nation’s most comprehensive, free online service to help older adults improve their economic security. It helps older adults find work, cut spending, reduce debt, and use their home equity.

Home Equity

NCOA's Reverse Mortgage Counseling Network is one of nine federally approved national counseling intermediaries that helps older homeowners determine if a reverse mortgage is right for them—and what other services and supports are available to help them age in place. 

Center for Benefits Access

The Center for Benefits Access helps community-based organizations find and enroll seniors and younger adults with disabilities with limited means into benefits programs for which they are eligible, so they can remain healthy, secure, and independent. The center accomplishes its mission by developing and sharing tools, resources, best practices, and strategies for benefits outreach and enrollment. Our BenefitsCheckUp® online screening tool has helped over 3.7 million older adults identify over $13 billion in benefits they were missing out on.

Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP)

SCSEP offers valuable on-the-job training and job placement that helps older workers, particularly those who are low-income or disadvantaged, build job skills and confidence. NCOA currently operates 22 SCSEP projects throughout the U.S. SCSEP is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

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