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One of the several events UCSF identified as a contributor to experiencing homelessness for the first time later in life is a loss of income. While a recent survey shows that over half of Americans say they’re open to working “indefinitely,” not stopping for retirement, ageism often gets in the way of older adults’ job opportunities.

Nearly 1-in-6 50-plus adults currently working or looking for work reported that they weren’t hired for a job within the past two years because of their age, according to a 2022 AARP survey. And 13% of those over 50 say they were passed up for a promotion or chance to get ahead because of their age.

The best thing to do is to try and keep your current job, even beyond 65. Retirement coach Robert Laura told Moneywise that boomers ought to start asking their managers about keeping them around after retirement — even if it’s only part-time.

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Loss of a spouse

Another common trigger for experiencing homelessness is the loss of a spouse, whether it be a death or a divorce. Losing your spouse can not only impact your income, it can have a significant impact on mental health — another thing that can land someone on the street, adds the UCSF report.

But “gray divorces,” those that happen for those over 50, are becoming more and more common. The only age group with a growing divorce rates is those 65 and over, according to a 2022 paper from Bowling Green State University.

All divorces are financial hassles, but gray divorces in particular can cause serious financial issues. Losing half your investments and savings would be a major blow to your net worth, especially when you’re over 50 and have less time to recoup the money than you would in your younger years.

While there’s nothing you can do to prevent death, preparing in advance will prevent you from experiencing additional financial stress after any kind of spousal loss. Make sure you and your partner have up-to-date wills and life insurance policies. As for divorce, a prenuptial agreement will make things a lot less messy when you split. It may seem pessimistic, but prenups have become popular among younger people for this very reason.


As they say, aging isn’t for the faint of heart. Your body is likely to start requiring more care and you may get sick or have a disability in your later years. And as you age, your wallet tends to feel a strain as well. UCSF says a health crisis is another common reason that leads to unhousing.

The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University looked into this in a recent report by analyzing the 2021 American Community Survey and the 2021 Genworth Cost of Care Survey.

Here's what they found: “In the 97 metros studied, 92% of older adult households with very low incomes are unable to afford even one four-hour home care visit per week after paying for housing and basic costs of living.”

This means that some people may have to choose to pay for their medicine or health care over their home. Because while there’s Medicare and Medicaid, but these plans don't cover other expenses, like the rising cost of food or a lack of affordable housing.

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How to get in front of the issue

The easiest way to prevent yourself from slipping into homelessness is to ensure you have a sufficient cushion for your retirement years. However, that’s sometimes easier said than done. Especially if you're stuck in a paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. Only 1-in-10 low-income workers between the ages of 51 and 64 had a retirement account balance in 2019, according to a July report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

But it’s never too late to start. Even setting aside small amounts, if done consistently, can make a big difference come retirement. These days, some apps even make it possible to invest by rounding up your spare change on everyday purchases.

If even that sounds overwhelming, you may want to speak with a professional financial adviser. Reviewing your details with a qualified financial professional can offer you both reassurance and an action plan for protecting your financial future.

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About the Author

Sabina Wex

Sabina Wex


Sabina Wex is a writer and podcast producer in Toronto. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Fast Company, CBC and more.

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