The limitations of Nancy Embertson's budget have inspired economies both small and large. It's only matinees or second-run movie houses...
MINNEAPOLIS — The limitations of Nancy Embertson’s budget have inspired economies both small and large.
It’s only matinees or second-run movie houses for the retired computer operator now. She’s slower to flip on the air conditioning in her Maplewood, Minn., home. But because of her asthma, there are days she just can’t do without it, said Embertson, 71.
More drastically, when her basic prescription coverage maxes out each year and she has to pay in full, Embertson makes hard choices.
Usually around October, she uses her asthma inhaler once instead of the prescribed twice daily, and she takes a cholesterol pill only every other day.
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“The high-blood-pressure medicine, that’s the one I make sure I take,” she said.
Embertson is a middle-class retiree, someone 65 or older who has an income of more than $30,000. She’s part of a demographic that worked, paid off mortgages and saved for their senior years. But even they are increasingly feeling pinched, as the prices of necessities rise faster than they ever planned for.
Power companies are warning of 30 to 50 percent higher heating bills come winter. Although gasoline is on its way down from more than $4 a gallon, it has still doubled since 2006.
Overall annual inflation is running at 6.2 percent as of last month, with the three steepest climbs in energy, at 29.7 percent; transportation, 14.4 percent; and food, 6 percent, federal figures show.
But Social Security’s cost-of-living raise was just 2.3 percent last year. Even combined Social Security, pensions and savings are not enough to ward off worry.
For some, basic living expenses already consume a lot of their money. Embertson gets some assistance for the nursing-home bill of her husband, Jim, but his many, smaller needs — such as $8-a-pair support socks — add up, she said.
Other seniors are anxious they could outlive their money. And they’re looking for any way to cut pennies off their expenses.
“People are not living extravagantly,” said Michelle Kimball, director of the Minnesota AARP. “Their lifestyle hasn’t changed. What’s changed is how expensive it’s all becoming and how static their income has been. And what you see is a growing sense of struggle.”
Jim Simning, 71, plans to cover more of his winter heating needs with his wood-burning stove. He also said he’s walking more and driving less.
On the bright side, the retired printer in Birchwood, Minn., said: “It’s good exercise for a fat old man.”
David and Allifreda Diskerud of White Bear Lake, Minn., have scaled back from satellite to limited cable service for their television — their main entertainment, said David, 79, retired from a railroad, and Allifreda, who worked in retail.
“We’re just now starting to feel worried about how things are going to go in the next few months,” Allifreda said, in anticipation of winter.
“For all our own concerns, we have a lot of sympathy for younger people with families, and all those expenses,” David said.
It’s a common sentiment among seniors, Kimball said. They talk often about worries for their children and grandchildren making it through a tough economy.
In an AARP survey in April, one-third of responders 65 and older said they have had to help a child pay some bills in the past year.