Seniors need new check because of inflation, group says

Social security card with statements.
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Older people need a fourth stimulus check because they're being squeezed by steeper prices for gasoline, food, used cars and many other things, the Senior Citizens League says. Some seniors indicate they've been skipping meals and doses of essential medication to meet expenses.

"Soaring inflation has taken a toll on household finances of retired and disabled Social Security recipients," reads the petition, on the group's website.

Over the past few months, U.S. consumer prices have been up more than 5% versus last year — a level of inflation not seen since 2008. The increases at the gas pump have been truly eye-popping: In August, gasoline cost 42.7% more than a year ago, the government says.

A forecast from the Senior Citizens League says inflation could push next year's Social Security raise to 6.2%, which would be the largest boost in nearly four decades. But that could be too little, too late.

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Support for senior stimulus grows rapidly

Skyrocketing prices have been ravaging seniors’ bank accounts for a while, the league says, while the average Social Security recipient has been making do with monthly benefit payments that are only about $20 bigger than last year.

As of Thursday, the group's petition calling for stimulus checks to help people on Social Security cope with inflation had drawn close to 39,000 signatures. The petition was posted online around Labor Day, less than four weeks earlier.

"This is a huge response for us over such a short period of time," Mary Johnson, Social Security policy analyst for the Senior Citizens League, tells MoneyWise.

Her group argues that a $1,400 check would keep people from missing meals just to afford necessities like homeowners insurance.

Senior stimulus checks have a precedent

The White House, Washington DC
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The idea of stimulus checks directed only toward retirees isn't a new one — the U.S. did that a dozen years ago, in the midst of the Great Recession.

The economy was in what the Federal Reserve says was its longest downturn since World War II, one that lasted from December 2007 to June 2009. Home prices crashed 30%, stocks dropped 57%, and unemployment rose from 5% to 10% during the extended crisis.

In hopes of containing the damage, President George W. Bush signed the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 in February of that year. It included stimulus checks of up to $600 each for most taxpayers, with Social Security beneficiaries receiving at least $300.

But it was in May of 2009 that the U.S. paid out relief similar to what the Senior Citizens League is pushing for now: a stimulus check that went primarily to people on Social Security. They got $250 payments under President Barack Obama's Recovery Act; other taxpayers simply had less tax money withheld from their pay.

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What to do if you need more stimulus now

senior couple checking bills together on sofa, looking concerned.
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Though the Senior Citizens League boasts more than a million supporters, its petition for a $1,400 stimulus check may go unheeded.

There's a different online petition that calls for a fourth stimulus check of $2,000 for most adults, followed by $2,000 monthly payments. It has drawn more than 2.9 million signatures — but little, if any, attention from Congress or the White House.

For now, here are some actions you can take to give yourself some financial relief.

  • Deal with your debt. Credit cards have helped many households get through the last year, but the expensive interest will only make life harder going forward. Folding your balances into a single debt consolidation loan can cut the cost of your debt and help you pay it off faster.

  • Don't overpay while shopping online. How do you know whether you’re getting the best deal when there are thousands of stores competing online? To save yourself the trouble of comparing prices, just download a free browser extension that will automatically scour for lower prices and coupons.

  • Cut your housing costs with a refi. Still paying down your home loan? With 30-year mortgage rates still historically low, you could be missing out on significant savings if you haven't refinanced recently. Nearly half the homeowners who refinanced over the last year are saving $300 or more per month, according to a recent Zillow survey.

  • Turn your small change into a diverse portfolio. Even if you don't have much money, you can still earn returns in the stock market. A popular app can help you invest your "spare change" from everyday purchases.

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Take the change out of your piggy bank and make it work for you.

Acorns is a financial wellness tool that automatically rounds up your card purchases to the nearest dollar and puts those savings into an investment account. It takes the worrying out of investing and matches you with one of five investment portfolios.

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About the Author

Sigrid Forberg

Sigrid Forberg

Reporter

Sigrid is a reporter with MoneyWise. Before joining the team, she worked for a B2B publication in the hardware and home improvement industry and ran an internal employee magazine for the federal government. As a graduate of the Carleton University Journalism program, she takes pride in telling informative, engaging and compelling stories.

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