Seniors are STILL worse off than working-age adults

After adjusting  for household size, the income of households headed by adults 65 and older was 13 percent lower than that of households 35 and under, according to a new Pew report. (The gap is much larger when seniors are compared to households headed by adults in their peak earning years, which begs the question of why the authors chose to compare seniors with a group that includes not just young people starting their careers but also many students.)

What’s the title of this report? “The Old Prosper Relative to the Young: The Rising Age Gap in Economic Well-being.” That’s right, those oldsters are raking it in, once again.

How do the authors come up with a title like that, given the facts? In what’s become a familiar refrain, they focus on the fact that seniors, while they still have lower incomes, are not as far behind as they used to be, especially since the economic downturn walloped young people. O-kay! They also cite a lower official poverty rate for seniors, completely ignoring the fact that a new poverty measure that takes into account  higher out-of-pocket medical costs for seniors shows they have a poverty rate slightly higher than that of working-age adults, even with the help of Social Security and Medicare.

They also cite seniors’ higher net worth, implying that seniors who’ve paid off their homes and socked away some money in a 401(k) are better off than younger people, though the real story is that these savings aren’t nearly enough, even if they sucked every last penny out of their homes to pay for retirement. (In 2009, the median net worth of households aged 57-66 was roughly four times this group’s median annual income, according to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances. Even with Social Security, pensions, and other income, that’s not enough to maintain the same standard of living through retirement.)

This is a familiar story, but in a new twist to the old ageist refrain, the Pew report also bops seniors for working longer. Well, that’s refreshing. We usually hear that older workers are lazy and retire too soon.