Tracy Knable, 53, who sells collectibles on eBay out of her home in Hagerstown, Md., said it has grown harder to keep up with rising health-care costs on a fixed income since her husband retired from the Maryland state government. To help their food budget, Knable has turned her back yard into a vegetable garden, and she plans to build a chicken coop for the eggs and meat.
Although her adult children are doing well, Knable said she thinks this is an era of shrinking opportunities.
“If you go into the service industry, you can’t survive on the pay,” she said. “If you go to college, you have to ask, ‘Am I able to afford the debt?’ ”
Almost eight in 10 Americans say they worry they won’t have enough saved for retirement, concerns that peak among those approaching age 65.
“I hope I die soon enough that I will be able to leave some portion of my estate for my grandchildren’s education, rather than spending it all in a nursing home for six years,” said Phyllis Armstrong 65, a retired legislative analyst who lives in the District. “I realize how expensive college is, and how difficult it’s going to be to build up a nest egg, unless you’re at that ultra level.”
Younger Americans, particularly those under 30, are more upbeat about their financial situation and prospects for moving up.
Among those 18 to 29, just as many say they have become more financially secure in recent years as say they have suffered setbacks. Eighty percent expect to rise in social class in the near future. By contrast, among people 30 to 64, twice as many say they are less secure as say they’ve made gains. Hope for moving up in social class drops with age, with just over a quarter of those 50 to 64 expecting to climb higher.
Mitchell Baker, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, believes he will exceed the standard of living provided by his father, who was raised on a dairy farm and now sells insurance. But he thinks it will take both hard work and connections, which he is working on building in Future Farmers of America and his fraternity, Alpha Gamma Rho.
“There’s a bright future ahead of me because of the hard work ethics instilled in me by my mom and my dad, and my connections with the FFA and my fraternity,” he said.
Justin Mann watched his parents succeed against long odds and is confident he will maintain the momentum.
Mann, 30, of Birmingham, Ala., said his parents were teenagers when they married. His father joined the Air Force and earned a college degree. Mann, a doctor, is the youngest of three children his parents had in quick succession.