CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (CBS Connecticut) – Close to half of Americans die owning very little in financial assets, with senior citizens relying heavily on Social Security to help get them through their retirement years.

More than 46 percent of Americans find themselves with under $10,000 in financial assets by the time they die, according to a new study examining financial status among senior citizens. The study, “Were They Prepared For Retirement?,” looks at the connection between health and wealth and Americans’ increased reliance on the government.

“Many of these households also have no housing wealth and rely almost entirely on Social Security benefits for support,” wrote the study’s three authors, James Poterba of MIT, Steven Venti of Dartmouth and David Wise of Harvard.

Although the study outlines that most households seem well-prepared for retirement, finding that the average income in the final years is not a significant drop from the average income in a person’s late 50s or early 60s, there’s little wiggle room “to pay for unanticipated needs such as health expenses or other financial shocks or to pay for entertainment, travel, or other activities.”

The study, which was published in accordance with the National Bureau of Economic Research, also linked healthier seniors to having higher assets compared to less healthy seniors.

Poterba wrote that an alteration in the Social Security structure could prove to be a problem in a culture where asset-building isn’t as easy as it once was.

“If we were to substantially reduce Social Security benefits for those later in life, that there is a share of the elderly households for whom that would translate very directly into reduced income, because they seem to have accumulated little in the way of financial resources,” Poterba wrote.