Almost half of Americans have less than $10,000 left when they die

  • 46% now die with £10,000 or less  saved
  • Many do not have cash to absorb financial  ‘shocks’ such as big medical bills
  • Single retirees more likely to be  poorer

By Sam Adams

PUBLISHED:03:48 EST, 31  August 2012| UPDATED:09:08 EST, 31 August 2012

It’s a time of life when most folks hope to  enjoy some financial security.

But nearly half of elderly Americans now die  with little money saved, a new study has found.

Research by the National Bureau of Economic  Research, revealed that 46 per cent of retirees now reach the end of their lives  with just $10,000 or less in reserve.

The findings reveal the true scale of the  financial vulnerability of many elderly households.

Experts found many retirees do not have the  liquid assets to absorb ‘shocks’ such as big medical bills.

But while some elderly people struggle to  make ends meet others enjoy  wealth and health throughout their  retirement.

The survey looked at the financial situation  of retirees between 1993 and 2008.

James  Poterba, professor of economics at  M.I.T., president of the National  Bureau of Economic Research, and a co-author  of the study, said the low level of savings did not mean all pensioners were  suffering in poverty.

‘That doesn’t mean their  standard of living  is very low – they might have a relatively generous  pension plan, most of them  will have Social Security,’ he told The Wall Street Journal.

Cash crisis: Around half of elderly Americans now die with savings of $10,000 or less
Cash crisis: Around half of elderly Americans now die  with savings of $10,000 or less

However, he said the figures ‘suggest  something about the financial resiliency of these households.’

‘They may not have much capacity to absorb a  shock, such as an out-of-pocket medical expenditure.’

When other measures of wealth are taken into  account – such as equity in the value of property, and the value of pensions –  the outlook for many retirees appears less worrying.

Single people in the study had average  assets of about $142,000, while those whose husband or wife had died had around  $253,000.


  • Nearly half of  pensioners have savings of $10,000 or less
  • Richer pensioners  tend to live longer
  • Married  pensioners tend to be wealthier
  • Nearly 60  per cent of singles are worse off

Couples where the retiree surveyed had  died  but their husband or wife was still living had average assets of  more than  $690,000.

Of particular concern was the relatively big  fall in income faced by retirees whose partners had died.

While the income of single people and married  couples remained comparatively stable, the income of retirees whose spouse had  died fell by almost 75 per cent during the course of the survey.

It is unclear why this group is so badly  affected, but a drop in pension benefits is believed to be one of the  causes.

Their income fell by nearly three quarters  during the course of the survey, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The rich and those who stay married were also  more likely to be better off financially according to the study.

Nearly 60 per cent of people who are single  throughout the course of the survey had just $10,000 in savings when they died.

Married people are likelier to have equity  saved in their property

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