NY Times: Social Security Alone Not Enough, But Many Retirees Make it Work

For the millions of Americans who rely solely—or heavily—on Social Security as income, life is tough, according to a New York Times article published this week. As retirees weigh the most basic living expenses including food, housing and medical needs, many are finding there is simply no leeway in the budget. It can lead to choices impacting where seniors are living and what they are doing with their home equity. 

The reality is, most have few other options with nearly three quarters of unmarried people receiving at least half their income from the program, and nearly a quarter of married couples receiving 90% or more, NY Times reports. 

For some, it works, but for many it presents a struggle as rent or housing, medical bills and food take top priorities for spending. 


NY Times writes: 

“It gets hard for a lot of people to imagine getting along on just the Social Security check, but obviously millions of people are doing it,” said David Certner, legislative policy director for AARP. “They’re really living month to month and relying on that check. Some people have a paid-off home, but they’re still dealing with upkeep, insurance, taxes, plus utilities and health care.”

With an average monthly payment of $1,200 per individual (the actual amount is determined from one’s earnings record), nobody is getting rich on Social Security; that’s $14,400 a year, not much above the federal individual poverty line of $10,890, and payments aren’t adjusted by regional differences in the cost of living.


Modest as that average income is, someone would need about $300,000 to buy an equivalent annuity with a built-in cost-of-living increase, Mr. Certner said. Few retirees have savings like that.

The Times details several different scenarios of couples and individuals making it work. Read the full article. 

Written by Elizabeth Ecker