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Retirement Planning A Worthwhile Cause

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series highlighting the aging population of Chautauqua County.

Planning for the future is important, but often retirement gets put off until later.

Local officials say the best approach is to begin planning as soon as possible — maybe directly after leaving one’s parents’ house. Maryann Spanos, Chautauqua County Office for the Aging director, said thinking about and planning out retirement sooner rather than later is important.

“We need to start thinking throughout our span of life about things that will help us in our old age,” Spanos said. “The earlier you can start, the faster it builds up.”

Setting things in place like a health care proxy, building funds for retirement and other important decisions should be made early. Spanos said people shouldn’t rely solely on Social Security benefits, but should have a good financial plan in place.

According to the Social Security Association, nearly 62 million Americans received $955 billion in Social Security benefits in 2017. About nine out of 10 individuals who are age 65 or older received Social Security benefits.

However, in 1940, the SSA reports that the life expectancy beyond the age of 65 was about 14 years, while today it is over 20 years. By 2035, the number of Americans who are 65 and older will increase from 49 million to more than 79 million.

Currently, there are 2.8 workers for each person receiving Social Security benefits. By 2035, there will only be 2.2 covered workers for each person receiving Social Security.

Janell Sluga, Lutheran of Jamestown geriatric care manager, said everyone should think about retirement. She said the biggest question is “how is it you want to spend your time?”

Once that is decided, making a plan to ensure that happens is important, Sluga said.

“By the time you are 50 or 55, you should have a good plan going,” she said. “You have to look at your long-term goals. That’s very important for us to think about.”

Fortunately, the cost of living in the area is favorable for retirement, she said. Jamestown and the surrounding area are “ideal retirement communities.”

“People can retire here, maintain their quality of life and have expendable income,” she said.

It’s a relatively safe community that offers affordable experiences and restaurants to go to, Sluga said.

“There are many things you can do within an hour of here,” she said. “We forget that because we live here.”

Sluga said she believes the area should use that to its advantage and get the word out of how affordable it is to retire here. She said people can sell their homes in other areas, buy a nice home here for less and have a few hundred thousand dollars to live off.

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