Most retirees are just getting by

Letter to the editor

Posted: Monday, March 13, 2006

As one of the beneficiaries of the senior sales tax exemption, I admit a somewhat keen interest in the debate about whether it should be kept or not. I also admit it isn't an easy call.

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Many of us who are retired are just getting by. Let's face it, we're not going back to work in our 70s and 80s. We determined how much we would need to live in retirement and made our financial plans accordingly. Of course, that was before the governor eliminated the Longevity Bonus that many of us built into our budgets.

Now I read that Assembly member Randy Wanamaker has stated that "seniors are Juneau's wealthiest group." Maybe. More likely not. It is true that some retirees are well off financially and some boomers will be doing well when they retire. The statistics, however, can be deceiving. Much of the wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few.

Many of us start retirement with a budget that we believe will see us through. Unfortunately, we are not seers and don't have crystal balls. Here's something to think about. Thirty percent of the women who make it to 65 will also make it to 90. When they are planning their retirement budgets, they need to determine what inflation will be like for another 25 years. They need to know how healthy or sick they will be and how much health care will cost. If they are married, they need to know how much of their savings they will spend on an ill spouse before he passes away. They need to know what their property taxes will be for the next quarter century. They need to know if their utilities might go up over a 25-year period.

Bottom line: Don't let the statistics fool you. Some very wealthy retirees raise the average income figures. Most retirees are just getting by. They are grateful for the tax breaks they get and appreciate them. If Juneau does decide to eliminate the senior sales tax exemption, then it makes sense to "grandfather" in current retirees who planned their budgets based on the tax break. Give adequate notice to the boomers that they may not be able to enjoy the same tax advantages of their parents and grandparents. Allow them enough time to make their financial plans before they retire. That's fair.

Liz Lucas


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