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Income of Today’s Older Adults

As concern about the adequacy of the nation's retirement income programs moves to the forefront of public debate, policymakers and the public are looking to statistics to argue for or against the need for reform. Because there is a wide range of data from a variety of sources, the statistics can be confusing.

To help individuals understand the numbers, the Pension Rights Center is working with the Pension Policy Center to summarize government data on a series of related topics. The following information focuses on the income of today's older adults.

Income of All Older Adults from All Sources

In 2011, 41.3 million Americans were age 65 and older. Half of all older adults had less than $19,939 in yearly income from all sources.

In 2011, half of all older households received less than $33,118 in yearly income from all sources.

Income for older adults is also measured in terms of aged units. According to the most recent available numbers, half of all aged units had less than $25,757 in 2010. Read about the different measures of income.

Table 1. Median annual income of the population, age 65 and older

Demographic unit

Income
Year

Individuals 

$19,939

2011

Households

$33,118

2011

Aged units

$25,757

2010

These statistics are “median” income figures. “Median” is a half-way point, where half of a group has more income and half has less.

There are also statistics for the “average” income of older adults. This measure, which is less widely used, adds up all of the incomes of the people surveyed and divides that figure by the number of people counted. The average or “mean” income of persons age 65 and older is higher than the median income because a significant number of older adults have very high incomes. Read about average income figures.

Income of Older Adults without Earnings

One out of five older adults have income from earnings. In 2011, the median income of the four-fifths of people age 65 and older who are fully retired was $16,749. The amounts were similar among all older age groups.

Table 2. Median income, by age, with no earnings, 2011

Age

65+

$16,749

65-74

$17,019

65-69

$16,948

70-74

$17,091

75+

$16,553

For More Statistics on the Income of Older Adults:

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