3 Ways That Aging Seniors Can Survive Financially With Little or No Retirement

According to the National Council on Aging, over 25 million Amercans and 60 and over are living at or below the poverty level. They struggle with increased costs for both housing and health care, inadequate nutrition, limited access to transportation, job loss, and diminished or nonexistent savings. Many older adults who are above the poverty level are just one major crisis or tragedy away from sinking below that line…


Some older adults choose to work well into their 80s, often because they enjoy their work. In other cases, however, seniors are forced to work well into their retirement years due to financial pressures. This is often unplanned and may be the result of lost income productivity due to caring for an aging parent, caring for an adult child with some type of special needs, or perhaps medical or health limitations of their own. The Institute on Assets and Social Policy says that one-third of senior households have no money left over each month or are even in debt after meeting essential expenses.


For example, Vivian and Martin Majors spent their lives working hard. She cleaned houses while her husband worked as a carpenter. In their 60s, their bodies broke down. Now 71, Vivian is struggling to live on her own while Martin is in a nursing home with Parkinson’s disease. She survives on a $960 monthly social security check and $50 in food stamps. Hardened by years of physically taxing work that kept her hovering around the poverty line, Vivian is prepared for more years of financial hardship.


Hunger and poverty are also huge challenges today. A study in 2017 by Feeding America suggested that 5.5 million seniors don’t have access to enough nutritious foods. That number has more than doubled since 2001 and will most likely continue its upwards trend with the current surge in senior population.


What options are available for our aging population who are struggling at or below the poverty line? Are there resources available to help? Is there any hope of closing, or at least reducing the gap between struggle and survival?


While this list is not all-inclusive, we found that there are three primary options that can help older Americans put some additional money in their pockets, or help cover some of the expenses that are weighing on them.


  1. Federal, state and local government and community programs: These resources exist to support and help reduce the number of older adults living in poverty. Some of them include: 
    1. Social Security: Most adults ages 65 and older receive Social Security benefits. The average benefit for a retired worker is $1,471 per month.
    2. Supplemental security income (SSI): Supplemental security income is for those who are on Social Security, have a disability and have few resources.
    3. Medicare: Medicare is a government health insurance program that is offered to adults ages 65 and older.
    4. Medicaid: Seniors enrolled in Medicare with limited income and resources may qualify for additional assistance for paying premiums and out-of-pocket expenses through Medicaid. 
    5. Affordable housing: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides affordable housing resources for seniors.
    6. Food and nutrition support:  The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers nutrition assistance through SNAP and congregate meals, and home-delivered meals are targeted towards low-income adults and funded by OAA title III.
  2. Full or Part-Time Job: While this may or may not be an ideal solution, many seniors feel they won’t qualify for a job, or don’t have the necessary skills to get hired. Here is a list of 10 jobs for seniors that don’t require extensive skill, and are not overly physically demanding:
    1. Tutor – Help students learn tough subjects, bring up their grades, and prepare for exams. This is great for retired teachers, but can also be a perfect fit for those who are proficient in certain subject areas.
    2. Consultant – Speaking of experience, those with skills and proficiency in different areas of business, can offer consulting services. Turn your expertise, network, and experience to good advantage and work part-time for your old employer or for other companies in your field.
    3. Customer Service Representative – Companies always need qualified candidates, and many of them will let you work from home. If you’re good at communicating on the phone or via chat software and don’t mind talking people down when they’re not at their best, this role might let you work part-time from your home office.
    4. Virtual Assistant – If you were an administrative assistant in your full-time working life, and you’re comfortable with technology, a virtual assistant role can help you translate your skills into a new part-time job. Virtual assistant jobs don’t necessarily require a degree, but they do require solid writing skills and comfort working with and learning software programs like Microsoft Office or online tools such as Slack. You also need to be organized, detail-oriented, and good at working under tight, constantly changing deadlines.
    5. Pet Sitter/Dog Walker – If you’re a dog owner and used to work full-time, you remember how hard it was to make sure your furry-friend got his daily exercise and avoided accidents. Dog walkers take the day shift so that workers don’t have to race home when the workday is over. If cats are more your speed, or you’re an equal-opportunity animal lover, pet sitting while clients go on vacation is a great way to put a little extra money in your pocket. Apps like Rover and Wag make it simple to get started.
    6. Driving jobs for retirees – If you know your way around town, you may be able to supplement your retirement income with a driving job. Driving options include delivery workers, truck drivers, taxi drivers, chauffeurs bus drivers, and of course Uber and Lyft driving. Driving jobs might require irregular hours, including evening and weekend work, but some people have a regular route with more steady pay.
    7. Child care – Child care workers get to witness childhood delights, such as playing with bubbles or learning to talk. But they are also responsible for the daily dressing, bathing and feeding of small children who aren’t always rational, but you do have an opportunity to play a significant role in a child’s life.
    8. Writer/Blogger – Perhaps the ultimate work-from-home job, writing or managing a blog has no educational requirements or specific training. You just need a way with words and enough comfort with technology to learn how to use various content management systems.
    9. Musician gigs – Retirement can be a time to rediscover musical talents you set aside while working and raising a family. Some retirees find part-time jobs as musicians and singers. Musicians might perform solo or as a group at weddings, parties or bars. Marketing might be required to get gigs. Some musicians write and record their own music, while others play existing songs. Musicians might also provide music lessons to children or adults.
    10. Retail – Retail is always hiring, especially around the holidays. If you’re not looking to commit to a long-term position, consider a holiday season retail job. You may be able to schedule your hours based on your availability, and many retailers offer discounts and other perks to employees.
  3. Pool their resources: This may seem like the most unconventional way for seniors to help overcome excessive financial stress, but it actually makes good sense. In other countries, the majority of seniors live with an extended circle of relatives. In America, however, seniors are far more likely to live alone or with only a spouse or partner. This means the financial responsibilities fall squarely on the shoulders of one or two people. What if you were to explore some alternatives to help alleviate some of the stress: 
    1. Family you can live with – Do you have family you can move in with? Some homes even have a “Mother-in-law” suite in the home, which is essentially like a separate apartment where the aging family members can live there, and have the support of the family, without significantly interrupting their family’s daily life.
    2. Close Friends – Did you have roommates when you were in college, or as a young adult? Do you have close friends that you already spend a significant amount of time with? Perhaps you can look into pooling your resources, and buy or rent a home big enough to share, with others, and share the expenses.
    3. Downsize – If you have a large home, you may find that it is more space than you really need, and it has become more of a burden than the joy it once was. Consider selling (if you own), and moving into a smaller apartment or townhouse, you will save both on monthly expenses, and you will have less upkeep as well.

Hopefully these give you some good ideas you can take away and, even if there wasn’t one specific idea that resonated for you, hopefully it got your own wheels turning, and maybe helps you come up with some creative ideas of your own.

SIlver Companions provides in-home care for seniors as well as those with special needs. If you would like to talk about your specific situation, we would be happy to set up a no-cost consultation, with no pressure and no obligation, just to help you sort out your options, and help you determine what would be the best solution for your situation and budget. Please call us at (678) 494-8129 or email us info@SilverCompanionsGA.com