Thursday, January 5, 2017

Struggling with the Costs of Growing Old: Many Slip Out of Middle Class as Aging Takes Its Toll

A fascinating column, from Steve Lopez, at the Los Angeles Times, "Not rich, not poor, and not ready for the cost of growing old."

I've got a least 10 more years before retirement, and probably quite a few more, if I'm feeling well. I take the winters and summers off. Basically, I'm working eight months out of the year. I can hack it past the traditional retirement age, and meanwhile I can be socking away money into my retirement accounts. My wife's seven years younger, and healthy, so we've got a while to plan for those "drought" years (although, as noted, if things stay as they are, I think my family will avoid the "drought" years, thank goodness).

Boomers are crowding the retirement turnstiles just as safety nets may get a haircut from a Republican Congress fixated on an Obamacare repeal that could whack Medicare and Medicaid. And although President-elect Trump has defended entitlements, a key advisor once called for privatizing Social Security. California has been a national leader in supporting in-home care and expanding medical insurance to wider populations, but federal funding cuts could jeopardize those advances.

“Everything is a wild card right now,” said UCLA professor Steven Wallace, chair of the school’s Department of Community Health Sciences.

Wallace co-authored a report published last year on what he refers to as California’s “hidden poor,” approximately 655,000 older adults who are above the federal poverty level and ineligible for some government programs, but not wealthy enough to live comfortably in a region with such high housing costs.

I know those people. I’ve met many of them and written about some of them.

Doris Tillman comes to mind. She’s the South Los Angeles retiree who went nine months without running water after losing a job and falling behind on a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power bill she disputed.

“I’m going to write a book about how to survive in L.A. without water,” the 71-year-old Tillman told me at the time. She learned to get by on 50 gallons a week of water she purchased, lugging heavy five-gallon jugs into and out of her car and into her home.