There is a lot of misinformation coming from financial institutions and the media about how retired people with low incomes can’t have much enjoyment in retirement. Perhaps these “experts” on retirement should check out some research performed by Claritas, the organization that classifies American neighborhoods demographically for marketing purposes.
One of the groups classified according to the Claritas PRIZM system is called the Hometown Retired. There are just over 1,200,000 Hometown Retired households (1.11%) in the U.S. They have an annual household median income of only $26,000, much lower than the national median income. Almost a third of these households are renters. If they own their own homes, their houses are aging – half were built before 1958. The value of their houses or condos is a far cry from the national median value of houses and condos.
Because most never made it beyond high school and spent their working lives at blue-collar jobs, Hometown Retired households’ retirements are extremely modest from the financial point of view; typically they get by on social security and modest pensions. Despite being below the national average in income and assets, most Hometown Retired households don’t consider themselves poor, however. One of the reasons why this group is relatively comfortable financially is because the majority live on the fringes of large cities. Here it costs less to live than it costs to live in the cities themselves.
Hometown Retired households are comprised of retirees, two-thirds of whom are over 65; nonetheless, don’t assume that these people don’t do much more than hang around the house and watch TV all day. On the contrary, the typical retirees comprising Household Retired households are just as busy as when they were working full-time. Best of all, they are enjoying retirement.
How do these retirees get by financially and enjoy themselves on their low incomes? According to Claritas, Hometown Retirees shop at Woolworth’s or a reasonable substitute such as Wal-Mart. They use lawn maintenance services, belong to a veterans’ club, drive a Chrysler Sebring car, eat Wheaties, and own a microwave oven. They buy Firestone tires, heavy rock music, and rechargeable batteries. They dine at the places such as Golden Corral.
Hometown Retirees spend a portion of their time vacationing on bus tours, trying to quit smoking, bowling at least 20 times a year, and partaking in karate or martial arts. They are also collecting stamps, playing cards and chess, volunteering for political causes, shopping on the Internet, and drinking low-alcohol beer.
Hometown Retirees are reading True Story, Discover, Audubon, Field & Stream, Hunting, Soap Opera Weekly, and Ladies Home Journal magazines. They are listening to easy-listening, nostalgia, and soft-contemporary music on the radio. And when they find time for it, on TV they are watching soap operas, the Montel Williams Show, the CBS Sunday Night Movie, the NCAA swimming and diving championships, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the NBC Nightly News.
The real gem of information Claritas gives us is that the large majority of Hometown Retired households isn’t complaining about not having enough MONEY to do the things they want to do. Their biggest complaint in life, in fact, is not having enough TIME in the day to do all the things that they want to do. Above all, hometown retirees prove that just because you are a retired person with a low income doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun in life. As Harry Emerson Fosdick once remarked, “Don’t simply retire from something; have something to retire to.”