Editor’s note: The following is from Jeff Johnson, AARP’s Florida state director.
‘‘In “Florida’s Senior Population Boom: Good for the Economy?” Dr. Cyphers argues that a push to recruit more relocating Boomers to Florida would be “a tough sell.” At times, this argument sounded as if seniors were all penny pinchers on fixed incomes who were unlikely to work but certain to cost the state money in long-term care expenditures.
Nonetheless, states such as Tennessee and North Carolina continue to step up their marketing campaigns in order to attract older residents to their states. Are these states just delusional, or are they seeing something more to these retirees that Florida is missing?
The reasons Dr. Cyphers mentions for not attracting Boomers are commonly echoed by other columnists and politicians. However, they are based more on stereotypes of seniors rather than what recent data show. The truth is, attracting new residents age 50+ would provide the same high-octane fuel for Florida’s economy in the future that it did 40 years ago.
Myth #1: Older people don’t buy goods: A commonly held belief is that older residents don’t spend money on many goods and services. The idea is that older people have all the goods they need, and so their presence doesn’t help boost state economic growth. This may have been true with the previous generation, whose spending habits are influenced by experience growing up during the Great Depression. The Baby Boom Generation, however, is a different matter. Nearly 20 million Boomers are estimated to be interested in relocating. A community that attracts 60,000 of them – just three-tenths of one percent of the available market – stands to add $1 billion a year to its combined local income. Florida would be foolish to pass on that much economic muscle.
Myth #2: Older people don’t work: Another common misconception is that older residents will stop working the second they can cash in their first retirement check. However, recent data show that more residents are opting to stay in their careers than ever before. U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics show that in 2010, adults 55 and over accounted for 31.4 percent of the labor force. This percentage is only expected to increase, reaching 36.6 percent in 2020.
Myth #3: Older people have unaffordable long term care costs: This statement is not as much a myth as it is a case of carefully ignoring the bigger picture. On average, older people do tend to cost the state more money in health and long-term care expenditures than younger folks. But they rarely have children in school, they don’t often go to public universities, and for the most part, they don’t rob convenience stores or go to prison. So Floridians 50+ consume many fewer resources in public K-12 or higher education or criminal justice than their younger counterparts. Also, looking solely at the expenditure side of the ledger ignores the many other contributions that older adults offer. A study by the University of Florida recently showed that even including Medicaid expenses, older residents have a net benefit of $2,627.00, compared to a net benefit of -$818 for adults age 18-64.
The contributions of incoming Boomers don’t stop here. The Department of Elder Affairs reports that adults aged 60+ offers Florida also offer:
- $3.5 billion in charities
- More than 81 million service hours valued at $1,515,806.
- 33.4 percent of new home ownership
- $1 billion in local school taxes
Florida cannot afford to lose these riches to competing retirement destinations such as North Carolina and Tennessee. Relocating Boomers have a wealth of life experience, energy, talent and money to invest in Florida. Strategies to boost Florida’s economic growth must include how to make the state more appealing for prospective and current older residents if it wants to ensure future economic growth.
Boomers aren’t a “tough sell”- they are an economic necessity.