In a number of countries, projected state pension funds will be insufficient for the needs of a growing population of elderly retirees. The tying pensions to cost-of-living indexes is being undermined and there have been attempts to de-couple payments from index rates, on a supposedly temporary basis. Inflation, for some commodities and necessary expenditures, has exceeded the index adjustments, so that retired people have difficulty sustaining the diet, the amount of home heating and the automobile usage, for example, that they were accustomed to. Personal property and real estate local taxes may be too heavy for them and proper medical care, including hospitalization, treatments and appliances may be too costly to be borne. Sole reliance on government pensions means immediate poverty for many retirees who are forced to sell their homes, or even to move away entirely from the district in which they spent their lives and have their families and friends, in order to find cheaper shelter. As people age, the economic and social structures which they created for the earlier years of their life must give way to new ones. Many people have no replacement for the loss of family home, employment, spouse, and friends as these things are lost. Thrown into a situation of economic dependence, elderly people often must struggle to get the simplest necessities of living. Even those fortunate enough to find themselves receiving social benefits of some kind find it difficult to adjust to a new style of spending.
In order to maintain the same standard of living, pensioners require an amount equal to their average gross salary (for previous years) less all withholdings, including the costs of going to work, restaurant meals, transportation, and miscellaneous expenses. On the other hand, added to the amount should be equivalents for benefits lost - such as group health insurance, credit union access and the like. ILO economists believe the indexed pension should be in the range of 65% of a person's average gross earnings. Many governments believe the indexed range should not exceed a maximum irrespective of earnings beyond national average income levels, so that pensions may be as little as 20 or 30% of average gross income in many cases.
A 1992 survey found that the average person in the USA had set aside only $2,300 in assets or savings for retirement.