Seniors feeling pinch of insufficient income

By:  Janet Kidd Stewart

A pair of recent studies reveals a stark contrast in the race to retirement.

Fidelity Investments said the average total balance for its 700,000 customers ages 65 to 69 with both a 401(k) and an IRA at the firm is $359,000.

Meanwhile, more than half of U.S. households headed by someone over 65 have incomes that don't cover basic living expenses, according to a study by Wider Opportunities for Women, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit group.

The group and the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Boston recently published an index that compares living costs and income by state for elder households. In every state, the median income fell short of basic local housing, food, transportation, personal items and health care costs.

Massachusetts and New York were among states with the biggest disparity between income and costs. Michigan, Utah, Montana and Alaska had the smallest.

"It's becoming more and more difficult to afford basic expenses when you are living your retirement years," said Donna Addkison, president of Wider Opportunities for Women.

Of course, even those with six-figure retirement accounts in their 60s can end up having financial troubles as they age, particularly if they still hold big mortgages or incur lots of medical expenses.