America’s Seniors Scrambles as Fed Continues to Implement Further Rate Hikes

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Inflation, Seniors

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Seniors in America have a hard time making decisions.

After another rate hike by the Federal Reserve, soaring prices for everything from food, gas and utilities, in addition to the unprecedented cost of borrowing, are making the finances of Americans on fixed incomes very risky.

“Overall, they have an increase in daily living expenses because of the economy right now,” stated Executive Director Ella Thomas of Thea Bowman Center, a community center in Cleveland that offers food assistance and many more services. “It’s definitely a problem.” 

According to Thomas, many seniors who are served by the center and who own their own homes are at risk of being squashed by the weight of property taxes and often do not have the money to make essential repairs and maintenance.

“Being able to keep those homes up is a struggle for most of them,” she stated. 

And some of them returned to work at such an old age. One is Clevelander Catherine Powell, who accepts a part-time job at the center and helps other seniors apply for benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“When you’re younger, you can afford to get things fixed,” Powell said in an interview with CNN Business. “When you’re younger, you can go out and get two or three jobs; you can hustle… But when you’re a senior, it’s tough to pivot.” 

Seventeen years ago, Powell retired from the federal government to care for sick family members full-time.

“I took an early retirement because the people in my family started to get old… I didn’t want to put anybody into a nursing home,” she stated. “Unfortunately, I didn’t make plans for the long haul.” 

According to the National Council on Aging’s director of partnerships and network activation, Vivian Nava-Schellinger, the reality of people’s finances is that retiring with just a monthly Social Security check isn’t enough.

“Social Security comes up short by at least $1,000 [a month] in many locations. That’s a lot of money for an older adult,” she explained. 

However, many older U.S. citizens, especially low-income people, people of color, and women — likely to work less or not at all and to serve as unpaid caregivers — have no reliable source of income in their later years. 

Per data provided by jobs site Indeed, the percentage of formerly retired laborers reentering the labor force has skyrocketed this past year. The majority of the climb has been affected by individuals in the 55-to-64-year age group, stated the director of economic research, Nick Bunker, at Indeed. 

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Health Necessities for Seniors Multiply Economic Weight

Laborers dragged down by disease or injury don’t have a good chance of keeping ahead with inflation by increasing their income. Poor health equates to lower chances of employment, especially as people age. 

However, if they can’t buy healthy food and get the medical care they need, their health will deteriorate even more, decreasing the possibility that they will recuperate physically and financially. 

“You can… connect health outcomes and financial outcomes, because they are completely linked in so many ways,” stated AARP Foundation’s interim president and senior vice president of programs, Emily Allen. 

A resident of Chilhowie, Virginia, named John Harriger, incurred a back injury in 1994, causing him to be disabled and ultimately relying on Social Security for income. 

The 66-year-old Virginian stated that he is lucky that he currently lives in a family home with no mortgage, even though getting ahead of taxes, utilities, and insurance is still a struggle. In addition, highly-priced gas means that he barely goes out anymore, only when it’s necessary for his physical therapy appointments and church services. 

“Just a couple of months ago, I had to file bankruptcy,” Harriger stated. “I get about $1,800 a month [from Social Security] but… when gas and groceries started going up, I couldn’t make it anymore. We were using our credit cards to buy our gas and our food.” 

Harriger, eligible for SNAP, stated that his benefits climbed to about $23 a month recently. 

“We’ve had to switch our meal plans a lot… I miss my steak and burgers, that’s for sure,” he stated.

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Photo: Icon Economics