Priced out of Paradise: Many retirees struggling to get by in is - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Priced out of Paradise: Many retirees struggling to get by in islands

(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Waikiki resident Bob Roast says retiring in Hawaii means giving up things, and constantly worrying if you'll make ends meet. (Image: Hawaii News Now) Waikiki resident Bob Roast says retiring in Hawaii means giving up things, and constantly worrying if you'll make ends meet. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Many dream of retiring in Hawaii. But practically, the islands are far from paradise for many seniors.

A recent study found the state is the sixth worst in the nation for retirement.

The state's high cost of living is the no. 1 reason seniors struggle, according to the Bankrate.com report.

Hawaii's cost of living is 16 percent higher than the average, state figures show. And that's putting a huge strain on Hawaii seniors.

"Retirement is costly. There are no loans for retirement or for old age," said Barbara Kim Stanton, state director of AARP Hawaii. "On a fixed income, it's nearly impossible."

Experts say the high cost of living packs a one-two punch. 

Seniors don't just have to stretch their dollars more in the islands, they're less likely to retire to save for retirement while they're working. That's because many Hawaii residents are getting by paycheck to paycheck.

As a result, according to AARP Hawaii, 25 percent of Hawaii retirees are completely dependent on Social Security. "If not for Social Security, one in four of every senior age 65 and older would be living in poverty," Stanton said.

For an individual, Social Security amounts to about $1,250 a month -- in a state where the median monthly rent is nearly $1,500. 

Meanwhile, Social Security makes up at least half of senior incomes in Hawaii for the majority of local retirees. That's a concern given the long-term sustainability of Social Security. AARP officials warn that Social Security is at risk of being cut by 25 percent in 2033, a move that would increase the poverty rate for seniors from 8 percent to 19 percent.

"As their expenses go up and their income is fixed, that gap is what will put them on the edge of falling into poverty," Stanton said.

Bob Roast knows something about living on a fixed income.

After 30 years of service with the Marines, he decided to retire in Waikiki, where the weather is a lot warmer than his hometown in Maine. But ocean breezes come with a tight budget.

"Every day you got to get up and think: Is this worth it? Do I need it?" he said. "Is it something that I'd like to have or is it something that I need?"

Adding to Roast's expenses is a little-known Social Security tax, which applies to any individual with a combined fixed income of $25,000 or for couples who make at least $37,000.

"I think my Social Security is $15,000 some odd dollars and they took back $3,255 when I did my taxes," Roast said.

Roast says because Public Law 98-21, which President Ronald Reagan signed in 1983, wasn't written to adjust for inflation, anyone who hits that threshold is subject to having 85 percent of their Social Security taxed.

It's estimated to impact nearly 40 million seniors across the country.

"There's tens of thousands of seniors paying this tax from Hawaii. Well, how much money is that coming out of our system?" Roast said.

It certainly adds up.

"Every one in five is a senior, but we're soon to be one in four -- so when you're looking at those kinds of numbers it's going to impact everything," Stanton said.

Roast says for him, retiring in Hawaii is worth it. But over the years, many of his friends have decided it's not.

"It's an everyday challenge because you don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. Especially for older people - because things happen," Roast said.

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