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Monday, June 15, 2015

The Seniors Are All Right

At The New York Times, Dionne Searcey and Robert Gebeloff find that seniors are doing okay, thanks to Social Security, traditional pensions, and higher labor force participation, among other things.
People on the leading edge of the baby boom and those born during World War II — the 25 million Americans now between the ages of 65 and 74 — have emerged as particularly well positioned in the nation’s economic timeline. While there are plenty of individual exceptions, as a group they are better off financially than past generations and may well enjoy a more successful old age than future ones, even those merely a decade younger.
In the past, the elderly were usually poorer than other age groups. Now, they are the last generation to widely enjoy a traditional pension, and are prime beneficiaries of a government safety net targeted at older Americans. They also have profited from the long rise in real estate prices that preceded the recession. As a result, more seniors now fall into the middle class — defined in this case between the 40th and 80th income percentile — than ever before.
Median income for people 75 years and older has also risen, but not as much as it has for people in the 65-to-74 age group.
Some researchers have found that the economic success of seniors is masking an even deeper gulf in income inequality between the upper tier and everyone else than what is evident in the overall statistics.
“It’s not so much that older people are experiencing unseemly gains in income,” said Alicia H. Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. “It’s more that middle-aged people are not seeing income growing or even keeping pace with inflation.”
Nearly half of seniors ages 65 and up consider themselves in excellent or good shape financially, according to a Pew survey last month, in contrast to younger baby boomers, who view their circumstances less favorably.
As recently as the late 1990s, only one in five Americans in their late 60s had a job. Now, that number has jumped to almost one in three. And unlike in their parents’ generation, more women are earning paychecks than in the past, contributing to household income.
The median assets of people ages 65 to 74 doubled between 1989 and 2013, a far greater gain than other age groups experienced. And while there has been a decline from the peak since 2007, largely because of the real estate bust, this age group lost less than others.