John Barner, 68, of Girard, worked 60 to 70 hours a week in the steel mill industry for 40 years. In 1993, a heart attack changed Barner's life.
"My heart attack was so bad that I was off six or seven months from work," Barner said. "The cardiologist told me the type of heart attack that I had would be the type that would kill me. He told me that I only had a 5 percent chance of living and that I was lucky."
"For older adults who are above poverty level, one major adverse life event can send them into financial despair," said Lisa Solley, chief of community relations, wellness and training at the Area Agency on Aging 11.
With people living longer and with access to improved medical care that was not available a generation ago, some older people may find that they are not as prepared for their retirement years as they may have thought. Medical emergencies like Barner's can put retirees on the brink of disaster.
"A lot of times, events such as heart attacks or strokes can be acute, and people can't predict these events," Solley said. "Many people retired from the steel mills or manufacturing jobs in our area now are being told their pensions are gone, and they no longer have benefits. Even though people may have saved, nursing home care can cost an average of $60,000 a year compared to home health at $15,000 to $20,000. "
Thomas Shortreed, financial adviser at Ameriprise Financial / Shortreed Associates in Cortland, said that there are a number of mistakes people make when planning to retire.
The percentage of population 60 and older:
Trumbull County: 22.6 percent
Mahoning County: 23.2 percent
Trumbull County projected for 2020, 27 percent
Mahoning County, projected for 2020 28.5 percent
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
"One common mistake is that people will make retirement decisions early on and not realize how long they'll live," he said. "A lot of young retirees think they'll die at the age of 80, but a lot of people today live even longer."
When looking into retirement plans, people need to think proactively and futuristically.
"People need to make sure they think through longevity, inflation, standard of living, and health care events when they plan their retirement," Shortreed said. "The No. 1 solution is that people should reduce their expenditures. They should look at annuitizing assets, giving their money to an insurance company, and the insurance company will give them an annuity pension in return for life."
Shortreed said another solution in avoiding financial depletion down the road is looking into high-yield investments.
"High-yield investments bring other types of risks but could bring people income. There are situations where people run out of money because they invested too conservatively, or they consumed all of their assets," Shortreed said.
In some cases, the money runs out during retirement and retirement is no longer a period of recreational rest.
"Depending on their income, it's best for seniors to go back to work part-time or full-time if money is an issue. It's important for people to reduce expenditures or sell their valuables and or even downsize to one car," Shortreed said.
Solley said that another avenue for seniors who are going into retirement is to go online and look into benefits checkup programs such as EconomicCheckUp and BenefitsCheckUp, which are both online tools developed by the National Council on Aging. These programs help seniors to see if they are eligible for local, federal and state benefits. The programs also allow seniors to see if they qualify for meal assistance programs and benefits they have never received previously in there lifetime.
Solley said that another solution to medical expenses is a program called PASSPORT, which is provided to give special care to seniors by the Ohio Department of Aging. With PASSPORT, home-care services are administered under the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services under a Medicaid waiver. This program was constructed to decrease the rise of nursing home spending, which is costly for older adults. PASSPORT is a program that encourages the importance of lower cost community and home-based care.
"If someone is on Medicaid, they have to have a certain amount of income," Solley said. "With PASSPORT, a person does not have to meet the level of poverty to qualify for Medicaid. They could make a little bit more money and still qualify."
Barner was 62 years old when he went on disability. He is a diabetic and has had five bypass surgeries and an aneurysm. Barner's medication costs him $1,300 a month and Social Security has given him $1,800 a month.
Despite all the hardships, Barner says he is a "lucky dude" and is thankful for everyone who has helped during his rough journey.
He said Judy Signiorello, program director at the Girard Multi Generational Center, has offered a great deal of assistance to him.
"She has helped me tremendously," Barner said. "She got me into the government program for insurance."
According to the U.S. Census, 22.6 percent of the Trumbull County population is 60 and older while in Mahoning County, the percentage of 60 and older residents is 23.2 percent. An increase in these percentages is expected by 2020. In Trumbull County, the 60 and older population will climb to 27 percent and in Mahoning County, it will rise to 28.5 percent.
"The 85 years old and plus population is growing, and people are living longer," Solley said. "In order to avoid running out of money during retirement, people need to watch their money. A lot of older adults are still in the work force today in order to supplement their income. People are living longer, and they are finding out that they may have not saved enough."