Many Florida seniors rely solely on Social Security

A third of Florida’s senior Social Security recipients survive on only their monthly government checks, according to an analysis by AARP.

“I shop at thrift shops; I just got two blouses for $2 a piece,” said one 86-year-old retired television writer.

Nationwide, only 25 percent of retirees 65 and older depend solely on Social Security, the senior advocacy group said.

Advanced age has a lot to do with it.

Florida has nearly 800,000 residents 80 and older, second only to California’s 1 million. But Florida’s total population is half of California’s. Florida alone has 3,492 centenarians receiving Social Security, nearly 7 percent of the nation’s total.

“Folks have spent down their assets,” said Jeff Johnson, AARP interim director in Florida.

Floridians 80 and older are about three times as likely to depend on Social Security exclusively than retirees 67 and younger, according to U.S. Census Bureau data analyzed by Hector Flores of the nonprofit National Council of Aging.

In Hollywood, Sue Badger, 86, carefully budgets her $1,051 Social Security check so it will last the entire month.

Years ago, she moved from a pool house to a smaller two-bedroom condo to cut expenses. But Badger said she had to take out a reverse mortgage on her condo in a 55+ community to pay doctor’s bills, make repairs in her apartment and buy a car to replace her old one.

Still, she says she lives comfortably. Friends and family treat her with gifts. She found a private insurance company that pays for the medical care that Medicare doesn’t. Her condo association allowed her to pay $100 a month to pay off a $600 special assessment, in addition to her monthly $200 maintenance fees.

Badger is one of the fortunate seniors living only on Social Security.

Many other elderly residents are struggling with unexpected bills — spiraling home insurance premiums, higher property taxes and condo association fees, said Jan Bergemann, an activist who runs Cyber Citizens for Justice.

His group is trying to set up a foundation to help some elderly people stay in their condos when they don’t have the money to pay special assessments.

Unexpected expenses have convinced many recent retirees to bypass Florida in favor of Arizona or the Carolinas, Bergemann said.

One retiree who just moved to South Carolina reported that his home insurance premium was cut in half, Bergemann said.

Many no longer consider Florida a haven for retirees. Kiplinger magazine doesn’t include Florida in its latest report on 10 tax-friendly states for retirees. The magazine complained that sales and real estate taxes can be expensive in the Sunshine State.

Circumstances can play havoc with Florida’s oldest seniors who don’t have the savings to cover unexpected emergencies.

Fabienne “Faye” Adam has not lived in her condo in the Ventor B building of Century Village in Deerfield Beach since a fire in July 2005 forced her and owners of eight other units out. Along the way there have been lawsuits, hearings, a bankrupt insurance company, Hurricane Wilma and updated building codes — but no completed renovation.

So Adam, who will turn 81 in a couple of weeks, has to pay her mortgage plus rent an apartment while she waits for the work to be done in her condo.

Both units are costing her more than her $991 Social Security check and a $100-a-month pension, Adam said.

For now, she is dipping into the insurance settlement for her condo’s contents to pay her living expenses until she can move back.

“I don’t want to ask my children for help,” Adam said.


Source:  Miami Herald