Sobering Facts about Low-Income Seniors
Here are some alarming facts about low-income seniors.
- 46% of seniors are worried that their income will not be enough to meet their monthly expenses for the next 5 to 10 years.
- 32% of seniors are facing the prospect of being unable to pay for unexpected expenses.
- 41% are unaware of the benefits and the programs that could help them make their lives better.
From the above facts, it's easy to see that low-income seniors are faced with many problems as we will note below.
For senior citizens, retirement should be a period to enjoy the best that the golden years have on offer. It's time to relax, travel, reflect, and just put their feet up and reminisce of the good old days. Unfortunately, many seniors in the United States face the prospect of having their dreams of retiring comfortably and on their own terms thrown out of the window because of financial burdens.
Unbelievably, over 25 million seniors are financially insecure and are living under what could be termed as below the federal poverty level. This means that they're struggling with rising health care costs, housing costs, lack of transportation, inadequate nutrition, and diminished savings. Low-income seniors are financially vulnerable and are faced with several financial problems that threaten their economic and overall well-being.
Many seniors have large debts and have not saved enough money for their retirement. In other words, most low-income seniors have unmanageable debt burdens and have insufficient savings. Most of these financial problems may be compounded by unexpected medical expenses. That's not all; these financial challenges mean that seniors have huge challenges in meeting their basic housing needs.
Health and Wellness Issues
One of the biggest misconceptions when heading into retirement is that Medicare will be the fix-all solution for all health problems in retirement. Regrettably, Medicare won't cover all the medical costs. This means that there will be out-of-pocket expenses to cover a huge chunk of your medical expense. For low-income seniors, things could be even worse. This is because they're likely to suffer from various chronic conditions and may be unable to adequately manage their health due to a lack of appropriate medical coverage.
Senior citizens face several housing challenges that revolve among other things; physical accessibility, affordability, and easy access to medical and other services both inside and outside their homes. Other housing challenges may revolve around isolation from neighbors and lack of access to various services and amenities.
For low-income seniors, lack of adequate and affordable housing will directly affect the quality of life, health, and their ability to live independently in their communities.
Programs that are Available for Low-Income Seniors
Even though a significant number of low-income seniors qualify for the many benefits, many of them do not know what is available for them. Here are some of the government-supported programs that can assist low-income seniors.
Financial Assistance for Low-Income Seniors
Social Security Income - The retirement benefits that you get from your Social Security will cover just one-third of your living expenses. As such, Social Security should never be your only source of income in retirement but certainly worth noting.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average senior can spend about $4,000 a month or about $46,000 a year. On the other hand, Social Security may only provide about $1,460 a month or around $17,500 a year. Needless to say, this is a very huge gap that only indicates that you cannot solely rely on Social Security income as your source of retirement income.
As such, low-income seniors should seriously consider using other forms of Social Security to boost their retirement incomes. They include:
Social Security Disability Insurance - This is meant for senior citizens who suffer from disabilities but have worked in jobs covered by Social Security.
Supplemental Security Income - This is available for senior citizens aged 65 or older but are disabled and have limited resources.
Survivor Benefits - These are benefits that are paid to senior widows or survivors of deceased workers who were on Social Security.
Medical Help for Low-Income Senior Citizens
Here are some of the medical help for low-income seniors.
Medicare - This is one of the most common subsidized health insurance programs. It's available in three parts:
- Part A - This is hospital insurance that's free for senior citizens aged 65 or older and have paid Medicare taxes for at least a decade.
- Part B - This is meant to cover medical insurance and typically cost $134 per month.
- Part D - This is meant to cover prescription drugs.
Medicaid - This is an affordable health care plan paid by the federal and state governments. It's of great help for senior citizens with limited resources. Medicaid will cover the costs of visiting healthcare providers, medical transportation, hospital services, prescription drugs, and many more.
You can qualify for the following medical programs if you qualify for Social Security but have limited resources.
- Specified Low-income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) Program
- Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) Program
- Qualified Disabled and Working Individuals (QDWI) Program
- Qualifying Individual (QI) Program
Food and Nutrition Aid for Senior Citizens
While statistics show that senior citizens will be spending less on food in retirement, food is to the table. They include:
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) - This is meant to help eligible low-income seniors buy monthly groceries. The government will provide monthly stipends but only to low-income seniors who qualify. In other words, you must show proof of limited income and resources. To qualify for SNAP, your income should be no more than 130% of the federal poverty level. This equates to $1,353 per month.
Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) - This is an important food program for low-income senior citizens. Sponsored by the USDA, this program gives low-income seniors coupon vouchers and booklets that they can use to buy fresh and organic produce. You can use them to buy fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs, honey, and many more from farmers' markets, community-supported agriculture programs, and roadside stands. Keep in mind that you cannot use the coupons to buy canned or dried goods.
Meals on Wheels - This is a nonprofit organization that's categorized under 501(c)(3) and is recognized by the IRS. It provides food assistance to millions of Americans including low-income. They provide nutritious meals, safety checks, and friendly visits. This makes a huge difference, especially to low-income senior citizens living in aging facilities. This is a great program that helps in protecting low-income seniors from hunger.
Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) - This program works in improving the health of low-income seniors. It does this by enhancing their diets with nutritious foods. Most of these foods include milk, cereals, pasta, rice, dry beans, juice, poultry, canned meat, canned fruits, fresh vegetables, and more.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) - This is a federal program that offers nutritious food to low-income senior citizens at no cost. These foods are generally bought by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and then shipped to states who then distribute them to local organizations and food banks before they're distributed to low-income individuals. Keep in mind that eligibility criteria may differ from state to state.
Housing Assistance for Low-Income Seniors
HUD Public Housing - Administered by federal aid and local housing agencies to help low-income seniors to find affordable housing.
Section 8 - This program helps low-income and disabled seniors to afford decent and safe housing in the private market. You'll be issued with a voucher but it's your responsibility to find a suitable housing unit. The units must, however, meet certain health and safety standards.
Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) - Widely known as reverse mortgage, HECM offers eligible low-income seniors to convert a given portion of their home equity into usable income. This is a superb option if you're not eligible for HUD public housing. You can use the loan proceeds to settle medical bills, property taxes, insurance premiums, outstanding debts, and many more.
USDA Housing Repair Program - This program can help you in repairing, improving, and removing health and/or safety hazards from your home. With this program, you can be given low-interest loans to cover the costs of these repairs.
As a senior citizen looking to enjoy your last days on earth, it's important to know how much money you need to live comfortably. And if your income is less than 185% of the Federal poverty level, it may be wise to know the types of low-income benefits you're eligible for.