Friday, September 5, 2014

A Look at the Golden Years: Characteristics of Retirees in the Region

While a recent article about the best and worst cities to retire to wasn't particularly kind to the northeast, some still choose to stay in our region once they make the decision to retire. While a myriad of factors are to be considered, our region still has much to offer its older citizens.

Who, however, are those among us that have entered into their Golden Years and chosen to remain locally?

Well, the 2012 ACS Five Year Estimates for PUMS data does allow us to get at least a little insight into who are retirees are. First however, I needed to figure out how to extract at least a reasonable estimation of what a retiree is from the data. For purposes here, the following is basically who I looked at in order to gain insight into the characteristics of retirees.

So as the graphic points out, I took the population of people age 62 or older (typical minimum age for social security access) and then selected anyone who reported receiving a pension or retirement annuity, or that received social security retirement benefits as either a primary recipient or as a survivor.

While the definition is NOT perfect, it does capture a large number of people that certainly are in retirement mode. In fact, 85% of all people age 62 or older are included in this definition - some 37,000 out of about 43,000 people in this age category.

Roughly 60% of all "retirees" are still married, but about a quarter have no surviving spouse - they are widows and widowers.

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As a result, it's not surprising then that 56% of retirees are females.

Racially and ethnically, the retirees are not wholly reflective of the current racial configuration within the region - they are more in line with the racial distribution of their own day, 40 to 50 years ago. Whites make up the vast majority of those retiring in the region - around 86% of all retirees are white. Black retirees are the next largest group, at 11%. Very few other minority races are represented in the retirement crowd. This is mainly the result of their lack of presence in the past within our region. Similarly, only 2% of all retirees see themselves as Hispanic. While at present the Hispanic community makes up more than 4% of the region's population, their influx is a relatively new phenomena, hence fewer Hispanics are nested within the retirement cohort.

Educationally, retirees are a reasonably well educated group. More than a quarter of them have some type of college degree, and one in five have a bachelor's or higher.

As the "Greatest Generation" passes, the current "Baby Boomers" are not without their military experience. More than a quarter of all retirees have served in some capacity in the armed services.

Of course as we age we face many hurdles, some of which are truly disabling. These can include visual issues, mobility issues, hearing and cognitive issues, as well as a host of other conditions. More than one out of every three retirees reported being disabled to some extent.

Similar to the racial and Hispanic retirees, foreign born residents make up a slightly smaller part of the pie among retirees than they do in the current general population. Given the influx of recent refugees to our region this is not particularly surprising.

Slightly more than 5% of retirees are foreign born, and about 6% speak a language other than English while at home. Most are in fairly stable housing settings, with only one out of twenty (5%) having lived somewhere else one year ago.

Retirement, of course, is largely based on your ability to afford it.

According to the ACS data, each retiree averages an income of about $37,000 in the region. This is composed of a variety of income sources of course, two of which are typically a pension or annuity, and social security retirement benefits. Roughly 17,000 retirees (or about 40% of people age 62 and over) drawn from a pension or a retirement annuity or IRA. And nearly 35,000 retirees (or 81% of those age 62+) are receiving Social Security Retirement benefits. Combined, taking into account those that receive both a pension and social security, 36,951 retirees access these income resources.

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Of course there are other potential resources such as personal savings, reverse mortgages, etc., that retirees might also be using to fund their retirement plans.