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12/28/2017 The Good Life
There’s a reason why so many retirees flock to Custer County, and it even may be imperceptible to the over 65 crowd: our county ranks first in Colorado, and 184th in the nation, where Social Security income goes the furthest based on our cost of living. An article elsewhere in this week’s Tribune tells of a study conducted by a New York City financial firm that compares average Social Security benefits in relation to what it costs to live in a community. And Custer County is right at the top. The firm Smart Assets says the average SS recipient here collects $19,694 annually (about $1,600 per month) while the cost of living here is pegged at $18,247 yearly, or about $1500 a month. The average SS payments here are the fourth highest in Colorado, which indicates that most retirees held higher paying jobs prior to retirement. Our demographics bear the numbers out. The U.S. Census Bureau says a full 31 percent of our population of 4,602 in 2016 -- some 1,426 individuals – were retired. That’s up considerably from 2010, when 22.4 percent of the population of 4,255 was retired. Statewide, about 13.4 percent of the population of 5.6 million is retired. Recent articles in the Tribune have told of our overall population uptick in recent months, with local real estate agents saying many new homebuyers are younger and employed. With nearly one-third of our population being retired, there are some unusual dynamics; they require quality medical services, their transportation needs are different, and their demands for goods and services are also different from younger working families. And on the plus side, these retirees provide a vast pool of potential volunteers for our nonprofit organizations, they typically enjoy outdoor pursuits and are physically active, and they likely contribute more to the local economy and to community services than they require in return. In a nutshell, Custer County is a great place to live and work. Apparently, it’s an even greater place to retire and live the good life.