|By June Fletcher, Naples Daily News, Fla.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
After all, for six years, working as a caregiver and personal concierge, he lived comfortably in a half-million dollar house he rented in
But the recession ravaged the home's value, and the financially stressed landlord booted him out.
And like many older Americans, Wiley suddenly found himself struggling against a current of rapidly rising housing costs coupled with rapidly diminishing choices.
"I'd really rather live alone, but I just can't afford it," he said.
Most people assume that as a person ages, their housing needs are settled and their expenses diminish.
But a new survey by the
A graph shwoing U.S. household spending.
And worse, since income declines with age, this increase has had a disproportionate effect on seniors' budgets — even though people tend to spend less overall as they age.
After leaving his
He recently sold his double-wide, and is looking for housing before the sale closes. But he's having a hard time finding a decent place to live. He's already rejected a bug-infested basement apartment and a cramped mobile home that the landlord had subdivided into two apartments.
So he's thinking of taking on a roommate — not something he expected to have to do at age 60.
The nonprofit EBRI noted that home-related expenses consumed more than four out of 10 of seniors' dollars from 2003 to 2011, far dwarfing the amount spent on food, health, transportation, clothing, entertainment and other expenses.
And the proportion increased over time. From 2003 to 2011, the percentage spent on housing increased 7 percent for those aged 50 to 64, 5 percent for those aged 65 to 74, and 2 percent for those older than 75.
By contrast, during the period, transportation and entertainment expenses fell across all of the age groups and food and clothing expenses remained flat.
Of course, one of the reasons discretionary expenses like entertainment expenses dropped is because seniors need to cut back somewhere to meet rising housing costs.
"For those on a fixed income, that's a goodly sum," she said.
The couple was forced to move to a more expensive apartment in Pelican Marsh in June after the owner of their prior, more affordable apartment in
"Rents seem to escalate so much," Wallace said.
Jobs shed during the downturn hit older workers harder than younger ones, and the aftereffects cascaded, he explained.
"As you get older and lose your job, it's much more difficult to get a new one," he said. "It's lucky if you get one, and very lucky if you get one even close to what you were making before."
Worse, the recession hit many older adults during late middle age, which is normally when earnings peak, and simultaneously caused the value of their homes to plummet.
Some seniors responded by taking out a loan on what equity remained on their homes, Banerjee said, noting older Americans are now carrying more mortgage debt than they did in previous decades.
But for millions of older Americans who found themselves underwater on mortgages they could no longer afford to pay, there was no recourse except a credit-damaging foreclosure or short-sale.
Even though the economy is now improving, for workers at the cusp of retirement, there's little time to recover from the downturn, as
In 2006, Botwinick bought a house on
A friend in
Finding a place to rent has been much harder, however — and so expensive she's considering sharing a place with a stranger she met on
"I'm kind of desperate," she said.
Meanwhile, she finds the process of looking for an affordable rental in an area where demand outstrips supply demanding and, in some cases, "ridiculous."
"People want you to jump through hoops, credit checks and background checks," she said, noting one landlord even demanded an
Though Botwinick is doing her best to bounce back from the financial blows she suffered, she's worried and uncertain about what the future holds.
"I feel like I have jumped out of an airplane, parachute opened," she said. "I just hope I land on my feet safely."
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