Half of Americans over 55 may retire poor❓

Let me first say, I don’t buy this prediction.

How badly is COVID-19 hurting Americans on the cusp of retirement? Maybe worse than we thought. In an interview, economist Teresa Ghilarducci, a professor at The New School in New York City and one of the nation’s leading experts on retirement, told me that half—that’s right, half—of Americans aged 55 and up will retire in poverty or near poverty.

“Our data is showing that, because of the COVID recession, about 50% of workers over the age of 55 will be poor or near-poor adults when they reach 65,” she said.

How poor is that? “A person who’s 65 will be near-poor or poor if they’re living on less than $20,000 a year,” she told me. “I think we could all agree that means chronic deprivation for the rest of your life.”

Source: Half of Americans over 55 may retire poor – MarketWatch

The unemployment numbers don’t show that the age 55 plus population currently unemployed supports a 50% prediction (read the full article).

Even more significant is Social Security. It seems a bit questionable that 50% of workers currently age 55 will have retirement incomes less than $20,000.

  • The average benefit per individual is about $18,024 in 2020. For married couples, it’s $2,531 a month or $30,372.

Losing ones job at 55, especially without an emergency fund, is a serious challenge, more so if retirement savings are tapped, but will it cause poverty by age 65? In any case, 50% of Americans that age are not in that boat.

In addition, there are still many years to recover even if it means being in the workforce beyond age 65 as many Americans routinely do.

Nevertheless, there are lessons to be learned.

Be prepared… at every age.


  1. Income is only part of the equation. Outgo is equally important and often more important.

    I live comfortably on less than $20,000 a year because I have zero debt [paid off house] and live in a less expensive part of the country.


  2. Stupid people believe stupid articles by stupid writers. In retirement spending shifts from buying things needed for the job. Transportation, clothes and many other costs actually go down. Other things can be cut also, if money gets tight. Cell phone service, Cable TV and internet. Do you know you can still get “FREE” TV with an antenna? My wife and I are both 64 and have lived a good life so far on an average income of Just $12,000 per year, with my highest year 1994 being $35,000. I am now retired and have an annual inflation adjusted income of $37,104, meaning all of our sources of income are adjusted up, if the government issues a COLA. Surprise, If required I could live on what $20,000 per year buys today. I have done it before, while raising 4 children with the only assistance being free school lunches. Americans are spoiled, do most people realize if you have over $30,000 per year income you are in the top 1 percent as far as world income goes. Spend wisely, save for a rainy day and by all means have your house paid for and zero debt, before you retire. Then you can have a happy retirement no matter what your income. I know these things are true because I have and I am living it. I feel lucky to have had a father who taught me how to work on cars, fix any and everything because you may never have the money to pay someone to do it. I purchased 10 used cars from 1986 to 2020 doing all the required repairs and maintenance. At home I have fixed electrical, plumbing, septic drain field, furnace and air conditioning. I even ran a new natural gas line from my furnace, so I could hook up a gas clothes dryer that I purchased for $50, 10 years ago, it is still working today. My wife and I even painted our house in 2003 ourselves and sold it for a profit. I now have the money to travel and spend time with family in CA, OK, TX and GA and will not be back home to Montana until April 2021, all expenses put on a credit card to earn cash back with zero interest paid to the Bank.


  3. For 2019, the poverty threshold for a single individual aged 65 and over was $12,261; for an elderly couple, poverty was defined as an income below $17,196. In 2019, 8.9% of Americans aged 65 and over were officially deemed to be living in poverty. However, Census Bureau research found that the household survey significantly underestimates retirees’ actual incomes – adjusted with IRS data, poverty was 6.9%.

    So, some idiot says that the poverty rate of individuals born between 1955 and 1904 (oldest American is age 116), will increase ~ 700% or 800% due to a short term challenge like COVID. Even the Spanish Flu ended in a couple of years and ushered in the Roaring 20’s. That’s 49+MM Americans over age 65+. So, instead of 3+MM living in poverty, they are claiming that in a year or two, 25+MM will be living in poverty? How stupid are the readers to believe such drivel? Another vote for Biden campaign slogan – vote for me or you will end up running out of money and living in poverty and dying in the streets hungry and diseased…

    So it seems that the New School researchers are suggesting that the Covid recession will boost the elderly poverty rate by six- to seven-fold. If so, that truly would be a crisis. However, the same economic idiots once predicted, prior to COVID, that between 56% and 68% of Americans currently aged 46 to 56 would retire into poverty. Don’t believe your lying eyes! Remember that the poverty rate for older Americans was once 30+% and it has dropped dramatically since the 50’s.

    What do others say? Social Security projects that ~5% of retirees will be in poverty in 2030. The Urban Institute has approximately the same estimate.

    How did they get to such an outlandish claim? The secret sauce behind the projection of 50+% older American poverty comes from redefining what poverty is. Think Humpty Dumpty, “when I use a word, it means whatever I choose it to mean, nothing more, nothing less.” That is, they want to count those “close” to poverty as impoverished – up to twice the official poverty number. But, isn’t that alarming, that 50+% of older Americans will be living at or below 200% of the official poverty rate. No. In fact, that too is another statistical lie. Even the Urban Institute’s model suggests that only 23% of older Americans will be living within 200% of the official poverty rate by 2030.

    Just as important, remember that official poverty (as defined in America) is an income based determination – it ignores accumulated wealth. That is, retirees often live well within their means … anticipating an emergency at some future date. Retirees often match spending to income; many continue to save. I know I do. See: https://investmentsandwealth.org/getmedia/a1609d57-dc90-4d65-8f41-b64885a34d10/IWM18JulAug-DecumulationParadox_1.pdf

    To conclude: “There are three kinds of lies, lies, damned lies, and statistics.” – attributed to British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, author actually unknown, used in 1891 by Sir Charles Dilke, popularized by Mark Twain.

    Twain also said:
    “There is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.”
    “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
    “Never argue with stupid people. They will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”
    “Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them, the rest of us could not succeed.”
    “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
    “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable.”


    1. BenefitJack – One Mark Twain quote you forgot – “If voting made any real difference they would not let us do it.” No matter who gets elected to office, I have been and will always be the number one person, (With GOD’s help) who makes my life better, by my choices in life, not the government’s BS.


  4. I am unable to read the referenced Marketwatch article because I am not a subscriber. I would like to know what their angle is for such a piece. It is important to note that it is an “opinion” piece.

    So here is my opinion piece. That article was pure BS. Pre-covid numbers have 55-yr-olds with an average income of $80k and 65-yr-olds with an average income of $86k. The median incomes were $54k and $55k respectively. That would require a monumental shift to get the median income down to $20K. The only people I know who are still not working or at reduced hours are those working in the hospitality industry. Most of them are not over 55.

    Last week I read that 1 out of 4 people will run out of money before election day. The angle was they wanted a big stimulus package. Like we were going to have 25% of the population out on the streets dying by election day and that a government handout was the only thing that was going to save them.


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