The Reality of Older Americans and Financial Security

As they approach retirement age, many Americans worry about whether they will have enough money, after they stop working. You might remember the experience of those “lean years” of your youth, when it was difficult to make a paycheck last until the next payday. You do not want to go back there, after a lifetime of working hard. When you were in your 20s, tough financial times were easier to face, because you had plenty of youthful energy and the job market liked hiring people your age.

As we get up in years and find ourselves saying, “I’m getting too old to deal with that,” the prospect of working 12-hour days to keep a roof over our heads is unappealing. With age discrimination rampant throughout the workplace, it can also be increasingly difficult for seniors to get jobs that pay well. With these things in mind, let’s explore the reality of older Americans and financial security.

The Good News About Seniors and Financial Security

In general, older Americans are more financially secure than younger adults. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau conducted a survey that assessed people between the ages of 18 and 75 on issues involving monetary well-being. The study explored how people handle unexpected expenses, day-to-day bills, monthly bills and financial choices about the quality of their lives.

People aged 62 and older scored significantly better on the survey overall than adults between the ages of 18 and 61. About one-fifth of older adults had very high scores, indicating a high level of economic security. Americans tend to hit their peak financial security at about age 75.

The Not-So-Good News About the Financial Security of Older Americans

Nearly one-fourth of seniors have scores close to the overall level of people between the ages of 18 and 61. The survey scores reveal that the average American between the ages of 18 and 61 has an elevated risk of having to struggle to pay for basic needs, get a loan or other credit approval and address a sudden, unexpected expense of $2,000 or more.

Factors Associated with High Scores

Older adults at the upper end of the scale often share several characteristics. These people tend to be homeowners who are healthy and live with a spouse or partner. Members of this group often have two sources of retirement income (not including Social Security), like a 401(k) and a pension.

Things That Correlate with Lower Financial Security

People with less economic well-being tend to share these factors:

  • Only one retirement account or no retirement account
  • Poor health
  • Are renters, not homeowners
  • Support their older children
  • Have credit card or education debt
  • Retire earlier than they had planned

The federal agency that ran the survey, warns that some current trends could change the conclusion of older Americans having better financial security than younger adults. More seniors age 60 and above now have very little or no retirement savings. A larger proportion of older Americans are also still paying a mortgage and other debt than in previous years.


AARP. “Financial Well-Being Rises with Age, Peaking at 75.” (accessed March 7, 2019)

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