Field Work

Boomers Cope with Real Financial Pain

We really appreciate readers opening up about their personal experiences in the comments section at the end of each blog. It’s important to stop occasionally and listen to what they have to say.

Aging readers reacted strongly to blog posts in recent weeks about two of the biggest challenges they face: spiraling prescription drug costs and a so-so job market for older workers who aren’t ready to retire.

Here are summaries of their comments on each article:

High Drug Prices Erode Part D Coverage

Readers expressed anger about rising prescription drug prices in response to a blog featuring a diabetic in Arizona who, despite having a Medicare Part D plan, spends thousands of dollars a year for her insulin. She resorts occasionally to buying surplus supplies on eBay from private individuals.

Dr. Edward Hoffer in Boston responded that Americans pay five times more for Lantus than diabetics in the rest of the world. “The same is true for most brand name drugs and most medical devices. It is an embarrassment that we pay double per capita what comparable western countries pay for health care with worse national health statistics,” he said.

Bill MacDonald shared his story in a Tweet and follow-up messages.  This North Carolina retiree on a fixed income has paid $6,000 annually out-of-pocket – a third of his income – for two drugs he’s taken since an automobile accident caused medical problems and depression that led to other issues. He spends $3,200 for one of the drugs, a cholesterol medication called Repatha – that’s his tab after his insurance company pays for most of it. (Last year, Amgen slashed Repatha’s price from more than $10,000 per year to $5,850, which MacDonald hopes will reduce this expense.)

Steve B. was thrilled about a new generic on the market to replace his Rapaflo, a prostate medication. Then he learned that the generic is not much of a bargain either.

Careers Become Dicey after Age 50

Yes, baby boomers are finding new and better opportunities in a job market that has improved immensely in the decade since the recession. But many continue to struggle. Age discrimination is very difficult to prove in a court of law or a research study, but several readers believe they have experienced it or seen it happen to their colleagues.

Ellis writes, “I’ve seen far too many people in their fifties who were going along nicely, getting good performance reviews, etc., who were suddenly told their performance was poor, they were called on the carpet for an absence due to illness, or some other excuse. They were then let go, demoted, or pressured in some way to leave.” A supervisor he knew asked one older coworker – “for planning purposes” – when she planned to retire, though she had no intention of doing so, he said.

Karen Walz is anxious about finding a new job after being laid off from a Boston-area research company where she worked for 13 years. She was a jack-of-all trades – receptionist, international shipping specialist, proofer for scientific proposals, and writing helper to people whose second language is English. Seniors have skills and “ought to be valued,” she said. “I’ve read [news] articles that state that there are jobs for seniors, and some places value them, so I hope that’s not a complete fantasy.”

Bill Simon became unemployed at 53 from his 14-year employer, purportedly because his job was eliminated.  He found work at “much lower salaries” and also started a business, but he is “still trying to figure out what to do with [his] life.”

Simon’s parting comment sums up the way a lot of older Americans feel: “Not a pretty situation to find yourself in at 55.”

Squared Away writer Kim Blanton invites you to follow us on Twitter @SquaredAwayBC. To stay current on our blog, please join our free email list. You’ll receive just one email each week – with links to the two new posts for that week – when you sign up here.  This blog is supported by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

2 Responses to Boomers Cope with Real Financial Pain

  1. Jerry Fitzsimmons says:

    Spending 1/3 of your income on a medication to stay healthy is a travesty. Yes, you might be getting treated for the physical ailment, but the stress induced from poverty will also take its toll.

  2. Dave G. says:

    For the gentleman in NC taking Repatha, has he applied to the Amgen Safety Net Foundation for assistance?? You can qualify for their program for Repatha with income up to 500% of FPL, i.e. $60,700 if single or $82,300 for a couple. Based on the info above, it appears this person can qualify. Having Medicare Part D coverage doesn’t exclude you from participation. Go to for details or call them at 1-888-762-6436.

    Patient assist programs from the manufacturers is no “welfare” and is not Medicaid. And I see where income is the factor, not assets. So there is no good reason not to take advantage of these kind of opportunities.