The economic downturn is hitting roughly one in 10 middle-aged and older Americans especially hard, compelling them to borrow money for everyday living expenses and to seek help from family, friends or charities, according to a survey released Tuesday by the AARP.
In the telephone survey of 1,002 adults 45 and older, nearly four in 10 said they had helped a child pay bills or expenses. Among retirees, one-third said they’d helped their children pay bills. Eight percent said they’d helped a parent pay bills or expenses. The survey’s margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.
One-third of survey participants said they stopped putting money into their 401(k) or retirement account and 14 percent said they had cut back on their medications.
“We have patients coming in fewer times,” said registered nurse Tucky Franz of Salisbury, Md. “They’ll cut back because of the copay.”
The majority of baby boomers said they were finding it more difficult to pay for essentials and utilities, and six in 10 said they had cut back on eating out and entertainment.
James Dyas, 75, of Sherman, Conn., said he and his wife go to their favorite Mexican restaurant about half as frequently as they used to. “About all the money we have goes to buying gasoline,” he said.
While the survey doesn’t show large numbers of people making radical changes — taking second jobs or moving to a smaller home — it did find that more than one-quarter of those surveyed are having trouble paying their mortgage or rent.
Compared with older people, a greater percentage of younger baby boomers, those 45 to 54, said they were cutting back on medications, prematurely withdrawing retirement funds and postponing paying bills.
“For the younger boomers, it’s been an especially rude wake-up call,” said Jim Dau, a spokesman for the AARP, a nonprofit that advocates Americans 50 and older.
Debra Koziol, a 48-year-old hospital finance worker in Rhode Island, said she’s started carpooling to work with her sister a few times a week and packing lunch every day.
“The food is better,” she said. “Some of this is creating better habits, not so much waste.”