With very little saved and a hard life to pay for, Theresa Price endures a rough retirement.

A cascade of maladies forced Price, 60, to leave her catering job: asthma, sleep apnea, a stroke. These days, she lives on meager disability money in Southwest Philadelphia after having declared bankruptcy.

"I worked a lot of years in life and I did not expect this," said Price, a separated mother of 12 children. "I'm just so stressed and hurt. It's just one thing after another."

Retirement is not easy for a large number of Philadelphians, a new report by City Controller Alan Butkovitz's office concludes.

Just 44 percent of elderly households in the city receive some sort of retirement income other than Social Security, according to the report, "Retirement Security in Philadelphia," which is to be released Monday.

That's a problem. The average Social Security income is $16,429 a year, but a senior household in Philadelphia - a single person or a couple - needs $28,750 a year to meet basic needs without relying on public assistance, according to the report.

For many of them, retirement brings a cramped and diminished way of life.

In all, 85 percent of Philadelphians aged 65 and above who are not in the workforce report receiving Social Security benefits, said Allen Glicksman, director of Research and Evaluation for the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging.

For years, Butkovitz said, the national debate about pensions has centered on how to remove them as liabilities from employers' balance sheets, to make conditions easier for business owners.

"But we should be looking at the problem of how people can maintain their standard of living once they retire," Butkovitz said. "It has to be an objective to provide dignified retirements for Americans."

In Philadelphia, the report said, 12.3 percent of the city, or nearly 190,000 people, are 65 years old or older.

And many older retired adults in Philadelphia are struggling to make ends meet, said Pam Walz, codirector of the Aging and Disabilities Unit at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia.

"We see a lot of older clients with fixed incomes, and after paying for the most basic necessities, it's almost impossible for them to afford to pay for medical bills, home repairs, and other expenses," she said.

Often, many were low-wage workers before retirement, or they lived with a chronic disability, making it impossible to save enough money to live safely and securely as they have aged, Walz added.

While post-work years can be harsh for people, the outlook for those who are still on the job and hoping to retire comfortably isn't promising, economists have said.

Americans don't save nearly enough for retirement, experts say, which can ultimately hurt them and the country, in general, because retirees won't be able to spend enough money to keep the economy humming.

In Philadelphia, about 54 percent of employees (334,000 people) don't have access to a retirement plan at work, the report said.

That's why Butkovitz recommends an idea that has the state or city administering a retirement plan that various employers could join. Workers could make contributions and build up savings.

Creating such an entity won't be easy. "It's going to require an awful lot of persuasion and salesmanship," Butkovitz acknowledged. "But we want to make it easier for people to save for retirement."

That's something Theresa Price would agree with.

"I have so little money now," she said. "All I can do is pray about it."

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