Analyzing the Financial Challenges of Middle-Income Elders

CFAR | November 20, 2017 | by Steven Syre

The LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston is helping the National Council on Aging assess the financial challenges facing middle-income older adults.

The LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston (formerly CFAR) is using a grant from the National Council on Aging (NCOA) to analyze the economic and demographic profiles of various segments of the older population.

The research is designed to help NCOA better understand the older adults it currently serves, and to assess the financial challenges facing middle-income elders who are not often served by NCOA’s programs and services.

“I think our analyses will provide new information to help NCOA target its programs to those people at risk for having to make major retirement-related adjustments to their standard of living,” says Marc Cohen, co-director of the LTSS Center. “That information can enable NCOA to help these people better prepare themselves in advance.”

Focusing on Middle-Income Older Adults

NCOA asked the LTSS Center to develop a series of profiles of community-dwelling older adults and use those profiles to separate older adults into several segments. In particular, NCOA wants to know more about older adults who:

  • Have incomes that place them above 250% of the poverty level,
  • Own housing assets, but
  • Don’t have enough money to live out retirement without a significant drop in living standards, unless they find ways to monetize their homes, remain employed longer or resolve debt issues.

“Much of the available information about older adults entering retirement is based on averages, masking the fact that segments of the population face far different exposures to economic risk in the future,” says Cohen. “Too little attention has been paid to the group generally considered ‘middle income.’ This analysis will begin to provide information on how segments of the older popular face very different retirement prospects.”

NCOA already targets its programs and services to older adults with incomes at or below 250% of the federal poverty level. However, it wants to know more about the ability of middle-income older adults to handle major shocks during retirement so it can develop programs targeted to meet their unique needs.

In addition to its demographic and economic analysis, the LTSS Center will also examine ways for middle-income older adults to monetize assets in order to deal with the financial impact of poor health, caregiving responsibilities and LTSS expenses during retirement.

Cohen is working on the NCOA project with UMass Boston graduate student Danielle Waldron. The research, which began this fall, is scheduled to be completed by May 2018.