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What expense drives a typical older senior's budget?

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Some Americans spend a fortune on acute medical care and long-term care (LTC) at the end of their lives.

But, for typical older Americans, the true money sponge is housing costs. Americans ages 85 and older devoted 44 percent of household expenditures to housing costs in 2011, up from 42 percent in 2003.

The share of that household’s spending going to food increased slightly, to 11 percent, from 10 percent. The share going to acute care, nursing home care and related services fell slightly — to 19 percent, from 21 percent.

In households in which the oldest member was ages 50 to 64, the share of expenditures going to housing increased to 47 percent in 2011, from 40 percent in 2003. The share going to food fell to 12 percent, from 13 percent, and the share going to health care fell to 8 percent, from 10 percent.

Sudipto Banerjee, a researcher at the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), has published those figures in an analysis of how U.S. residents ages 50 and older really spend their money. He used data from two major survey series — the Health and Retirement Study and the Consumption and Activities Mail Survey (CAMS). 

Banerjee noted that there is a large increase in household spending — likely on health care expenses — for people ages 90 and older who in the top 5 percent in their age group in terms of overall household spending.

See also: EBRI: LTCI Boosts Overall Retiree Spending