NU Online News Service, March 9, 2005, 10:55 a.m. EST

Many of the 36 million Americans who are aged over 65 have few assets and relatively low income, a new study by MetLife, New York, concludes.[@@]

The MetLife Mature Market Institute Demographic Profile of Americans 65+ found 10% of those in the age group are below the poverty line.

The part of the population between 65 and 69 has a median net worth of $114,000 if the equity in their homes is included but only $27,588 without it. For those between 65 and 74, the average before-tax income is $35,118, mostly from Social Security, the institute found.

Of the entire 65+ population, 80% own their own homes and 20% are renters, according to the institute, which is in Westport, Conn.

Most of the 65+ age group’s expenditures are for basic necessities such as housing, food, transportation and health care. Those over 75, for example, spend just $896 per year on entertainment.

Sandra Timmermann, director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute, calls the report “alarming,” in view of the fact that the 65+ age group represents around 13% of the current population and is expected to double to about 71.5 million people by 2030.

“By 2050, there will be 86.7 million people over 65,” Timmermann adds.

Pointing to other studies showing a low savings pattern among baby boomers, Timmermann says that the older population of the future will not fare any better financially than the current 65+ generation.

“In addition, the fastest-growing population group is those age 85 and up–the group most likely to be frail and in need of care,” she says. “These facts point to the pressure that will be placed on our economy, particularly our health and long term care systems, and the need to help individuals plan for their economic security.”

Timmerman notes that, on average, aging women are at a greater disadvantage because they live longer than men and earn less.

“While more women are working and the earnings gap with men is decreasing, women nevertheless earn only 75 cents to every $1 men earn,” she says.

Other findings of MetLife’s study of 65+ Americans:

? Credit card debt grew slightly from $3,919 in 1998 to $4,014 in 2001.

? 42% are male and 58% female.

? Non-married persons were more likely to live in poverty (17%) than married persons (5%).

? More men (71%) than women (34%) were married.

? 28% live alone–more women (40%) than men (17%).

? Around half of women 75 and older live alone.

? 72% of those 65 and older say their health is good to excellent.

? The states with the highest ratios of older Americans are Florida (17.6%), West Virginia (15.6%), Pennsylvania (15.3%), Iowa (14.9%), North Dakota (14.7%) and Rhode Island (14.5%).

? The age group is 75% white, 12.5% Hispanic or Latino, 12% African American and 4% Asian, with the balance being other or mixed races.

The profile was based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau.