Income and Home Ownership of Older Adults
Fresno County has one of the highest levels of senior poverty in the state, 1/5th of all elders are living below the federal poverty level.1 A little over half (59%) depend on Social Security for the majority of their income. Only 40% have some type of non-Social Security income. Seniors relying primarily on Social Security often have difficulty finding safe/secure and reasonable housing, paying for out-of-pocket medical and over the counter expenses, and affording transportation and food.
Chart 1 shows the average annual income from various sources.1 Employed elders are earning about $48,000 a year. Pension income averages around $27,000. Monthly averages for Social Security are $1,500, while the average monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) check, for approximately 16,000 elders on SSI is $750.2 Almost 1/4th (23%) of those elders living under the Federal Poverty level (200%) experience food insecurity.3
Fresno Elder Economic Security
The estimated cost of living in Fresno County is higher than the income of many older adults. The University of California, Los Angeles produces a cost of living index that takes into account the health and transportation needs of older adults, as well as basic living expenses. The Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index estimates are generally higher than the Federal government’s cost of living estimates, and yet, they may still underestimate the cost of living (see Table 1).4
Renters, and older adults who own a home with a mortgage face higher costs of living per person than older adults who own their home without a mortgage. A comparison of a couple who owns a home without a mortgage, to a single renter reveals that the estimated annual cost of living for the couple is only $4,000 more than for the renter. Moreover, homeowners have the advantage of asset income, should they need to sell their home and are generally more stable than renters.
Table 1: Cost of Living Estimates for Adults Aged 65 and Older in Fresno County
|Single, renter||Couple, renter||Couple, Owner with Mortgage||Couple, Owner No Mortgage|
Elder Index. Estimated Cost of Living 2013. UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
The Elder Index does not show individual differences which may increase the risk of poverty. Multiple life events can increase the risk of poverty for women. Longevity, co-morbid illness, widowhood, and employment inequality all impact a woman’s retirement security. Women spend more years of their lives than men in disability, and in social isolation. The California Commission on Aging recently held a forum on women and poverty detailing the challenges of this vulnerable group.5
Fresno County Average Household Income
Chart 2 compares the average household income in Fresno County among various age groups.7 There are more poor and near poor older adults than in any other age group. Nineteen percent of adults aged 65 and older are in the near poor category with an average household income between $10,000 and $20,000. However, a substantial group of older adults are financially secure and thriving. Forty-one percent (roughly 45,000) of older adults have a household income of $50,000 or more. Sixteen percent have an annual household income of over $100,000.
Chart 1 and Chart 2 do not take into account the value of home ownership as part of net worth. Taking home ownership into consideration significantly increases the financial security of older adults who own their home. Seventy-three percent of adults aged 65 and older own their home.1 Half of these homes are owned without a mortgage.6 The estimated average value of owned homes is $190,000.1
- S0103: Population 65 Years and Over in the United States, Fresno County. 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates. S. Census Bureau.
- SSI Recipients by State and County, Dec 2015. https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/statcomps/ssi_sc/2015/index.html
- California Health Interview Survey (CHIS). CHIS 2014. Adult Public Use File. Release 1 [computer file]. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
- The Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index. Estimated Cost of Living 2013. UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. http://healthpolicy.ucla.edu/ElderIndex.
- Aging, Women, and Poverty in California. (2016). Fitzpatrick, S., Sewell, C., & Christ, A. California Commission on Aging.
- California Health Interview Survey (CHIS). CHIS 2015. Adult Public Use File. Release 1 [computer file]. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
- B19037: Age of Householder by Household Income in the Past 12 Months (In 2015 Inflation-Adjusted Dollars). 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.