Release of Living Longer on Less in Massachusetts: The New Economic (In)Security of Seniors.
The social contract for seniors in the 20th century was based on the prospect of a secure retirement
during the later stages of each American’s life-course. With the inception of federal programs, such
as Social Security and Medicare, the contract grew and adapted to changing times. Due to these
social investments, poverty among the elderly declined and a secure retirement with incomes from
three complementary sources (Social Security, pensions, and savings) became a common vision and
expectation for older adults in the United States.
However, recent fundamental changes in the lives of older Americans, such as increasing longevity, weakening of pension incomes, and dramatically rising
expenses for healthcare and housing have eroded the financial stability of the three-legged stool of
retirement security. These shifts make it more difficult for seniors to enter retirement with economic
security and to remain economically secure throughout retirement.
In light of these altering conditions, this report assesses how the social contract is holding up into
the 21st century for seniors residing in Massachusetts by examining long-term economic security of
senior households in the state. To measure long-term financial stability of senior households in the
Commonwealth throughout their retirement years, we created a comprehensive multi-factor measure,
the Massachusetts Senior Financial Stability Index(MSFSI).
The Massachusetts Senior Financial Stability Index finds that 68 percent of all senior households
in the state are financially vulnerable. That is, close to seven in ten senior households do not have
sufficient financial stability to sustain them through their lives. This risk is especially pronounced for
single senior households – with 82 percent among them facing financial insecurity.
The data used in this report do not reflect the deep recession of 2008/09, characterized by collapsing
stock and real estate markets. This changing economic environment poses steep challenges for seniors
today and highlights the importance of a comprehensive assessment of security. The MSFSI provides a
benchmark of the economic life prospects of Massachusetts seniors and underscores areas of strength
and vulnerability that public policy can address.
The New Economic (In)Security of Seniors.
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