10 Common Expenses That Have Skyrocketed for Seniors

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If you’re a Social Security recipient, you likely have seen small increases in your monthly payment through annual cost-of-living adjustments. But those increases are barely keeping pace with inflation.

The price tags have increased on many of the things seniors buy. The result? Social Security payments have lost 30% of their buying power since 2000, according to a recent study from the Senior Citizens League.

“To put it in perspective,” study author Mary Johnson said in a statement, “for every $100 worth of groceries a retiree could afford in 2000, they can only buy $70 worth today.”

Retiree dollars have to stretch further and further these days. Following is a look at some typical expenses for seniors that have skyrocketed over the past couple of decades, according to the study — and some tips on how to help keep costs low.

1. Prescription drugs

The average out-of-pocket cost of prescription drugs jumped from $1,102 a year in 2000 to $3,875.76 this year, a 252% increase, according to the Senior Citizens League analysis.

Different types of drugs increase in price for different reasons, according to a 2019 study published in “Health Affairs.” As we report in “Brace to Pay More for These 26 Prescriptions in 2020“:

“Price increases for generic and specialty drugs are driven primarily by new product entry — meaning the price hikes can be attributed primarily to new drugs coming on the market — the study found. However, price increases for brand-name drugs are driven primarily by inflation of the prices of existing drugs.”

For tips on lowering your prescription costs, check out Money Talks News’ latest stories on the topic.

2. Medicare Part B premium

Medicare Part B covers services such as doctor visits and preventive care. But the cost of the standard Medicare Part B premium has more than tripled in the past two decades, rising from $45.50 a month to $144.60 a month, an increase of 218%.

The standard Part B premium applies to individuals who earn up to $87,000 and married couples who earn up to $174,000 and file a joint federal tax return. Seniors with higher incomes pay higher Part B premiums — currently, anywhere from $202.40 to $491.60 per month, depending on their income.

3. Homeowners insurance

The average annual cost of homeowners insurance across the U.S. has increased from $508 in 2000 to $1,389.90 this year — or 174%, according to the Senior Citizens League study.

For help bringing down this expense, check out “8 Ways to Slash the Cost of Homeowners Insurance.”

4. Home heating

Living in a colder climate can cost you more than the price of a pair of good boots. The average cost of heating oil has increased from $1.15 a gallon in 2000 to $3.12 now, an increase of 172%.

Factors like the stock market, weather, supply and demand, and even the global political climate can all change the price of oil overnight.

To learn how to lower your costs, read “19 Cheap or Free Ways to Cut Your Winter Energy Bills.”

5. Potatoes

The average cost of a 10-pound sack of gold potatoes rose from $2.98 in 2000 to $7.98 in 2020, an increase of 168%.

6. Veterinarian services

As much as 32% of pet owners are age 55 or older, and research shows a furry friend can keep you healthier, happier and less stressed. But pet owners are now spending $272.90 a year on vet bills, up 150% from $109.30 in 2000.

Preventive care can help keep those vet bills down. Remember to brush your pet’s teeth, schedule regular check-ups, and discuss flea and tick prevention medicine with your vet.

7. Medigap premiums

Medigap plans are supplemental health insurance coverage available to seniors with Original Medicare, also known as traditional Medicare. It covers some costs like deductibles, copayments and coinsurance that Original Medicare does not cover.

But thanks to the rising costs of health care, along with an increased life expectancy, the average monthly Medigap premium increased from $119 two decades ago to $295.64 today, or 148%.

8. Total medical costs

Medicare doesn’t cover everything, so retirees often have to reach into their pockets for some expenses. The average annual cost of total medical care for older Americans, not including health insurance premiums, rose from $6,140 in 2000 to more than $14,100 this year, or about 130%.

For ways to save, check out “5 Ways Anyone Can Save on Out-of-Pocket Health Care Costs.”

9. Real estate taxes

Plenty of retirees prefer “aging in place” over moving to an assisted living facility. But real estate taxes, which are typically based on the value of a home, can be trouble.

Rising real estate values have partly contributed to higher real estate taxes, jumping from $690 in 2000 to $1,579.06 this year, on average. That’s an increase of 129%.

Many local governments offer property tax breaks for seniors, so head to your city or county government’s website for details. Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson also details other ways to lower your property taxes in “Can I Freeze My Property Taxes?

10. Oranges

Research shows citrus fruits help keep your brain sharp and body healthy. But the sweet-treat supply chain has suffered, thanks in part to a disease called citrus greening.

From 2000 to 2020, the average price of oranges increased from 61 cents a pound to $1.34, or 120%.

These days, a different disease might influence prices: The fruit’s immune-boosting powers have led to a surge in demand amid the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, the price of oranges and tangerines jumped by 5.6% between March and April of this year, as we report in “Prices of These 17 Groceries Are Soaring.”

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