When the Nest Egg Cracks: Financial Consequences of Health Problems, Marital Status Changes, and Job Layoffs at Older Ages

Richard W. JohnsonGordon Mermin Cori E. Uccello

WP#2005-18

Abstract

The risk of falling into poor health, losing the ability to work or live independently, becoming widowed, and experiencing other negative events that threaten financial security increase with age. This report computes the incidence of these negative events at older ages and examines their impact on economic well-being. Over a 10-year period, more than three-quarters of adults age 51 to 61 at the beginning of the period experience job layoffs, widowhood, divorce, new health problems, or the onset of frailty among parents or in-laws. More than two-thirds of adults age 70 and older experience at least one negative shock over a nine-year period. Incidence rates are even higher at the household level for married people, who face the added risk that their spouses could develop health problems or lose their jobs. Financial consequences are especially serious for older adults who develop work disabilities or long-term care needs, or who become unemployed.