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York County ranks sixth statewide in retirement study

Written by Brett Sholtis, York Daily Record | Aug 13, 2015 4:00 PM
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Joan Ashbrook, left, and Catherine Barnhart play pool during happy hour at Country Meadows Retirement Community in West Manchester Township. A recent data-set came out listing York County as the sixth-best county in the state in terms of preparedness of its residents for retirement. Photo by Kate Penn, York Daily Record / Sunday News

(York) -- On average, York County residents are more prepared for retirement than most Pennsylvanians, according to a recent study.

The study, by financial tech company SmartAsset, ranked the county sixth out of Pennsylvania's 67 counties. It looked at median household wealth, average social security income and cost of living.

Chester County came in at No. 1, while closer to York, Cumberland County ranked fifth.

With a median household wealth of $44,275, York County's average wealth is half that of Chester County's average of $82,915. However, York County's annual cost of living, $16,487, is $4,836 lower than Chester County's $21,323 cost of living.

"York is doing very well," said AJ Myers, a vice president at the New York-based company.

Myers advised us to not get too jealous of Chester County: it ranked 24th among the approximately 3,100 counties in the U.S., while York County ranked 162nd -- also not too bad.

High cost-of-living counties in New Mexico and California were some of the least retirement-friendly areas, Myers said, while Big Horn County, Montana and Suffolk County, Massachusetts ranked as the very worst.

Because of factors such as high cost of living and tax structures that don't favor retires, Myers said, many people are likely to leave those areas when they retire.

"Retirees are tending to move to states that have retirement-friendly tax situations," Myers said.

That's exactly what York-area resident Josie Barbaretta did.

She retired a few years ago after more than 20 years working as a medical assistant in Rosedale, Md.

"In Maryland, it was rough trying to live on your own," Barbaretta said. "In PA, it's much easier."

Now, Barbaretta works part-time at Country Meadows, a retirement community in West Manchester Township.

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Donald Wagman shows an airplane he built in his room at Country Meadows Retirement Community. Wagman has built several such models, and made a Christmas scene around a train set at Christmas. (Kate Penn -- Daily Record/Sunday News)

Resident JoAnn Hoffman said retirement is a balancing act between quality of life and finances. She'd looked at other senior living communities, she said, but realized she'd likely save money by renting at Country Meadows rather than buying an apartment at one of the others.

Cost, Hoffman said, was the biggest consideration.

Danette Godfrey moved there a few months ago after an illness caused her to have a difficult time going up and down stairs.

Godfrey's career as a loan officer and bank teller at Northwest Savings Bank made her more aware of retirement saving than many people -- but, she said, she'd never planned for her illness and disability.

"When you have to retire due to disability and take it early, you don't get as much," Godfrey said. "So, plan, and plan further ahead."

Mike Stein, a financial adviser at Edward Jones in York Township, couldn't agree more.

"Start thinking about retirement as soon as possible," Stein said, and he pointed to compounding interest -- meaning an investment can double every 10 years -- as a reason to start young. "The earlier you can put in the effort, the better off you're going to be."

Stein wasn't a big fan of the SmartAsset study, which he said was a bit over-simplistic. He said a small number of high-income households could skew the average.

Still, he said, the study did a good job of drawing attention to the importance of building up assets.

"Ultimately, in my opinion, if people want to be ready to retire, it comes down to sitting down with someone, running projections ... to determine where you are, what you need to get to your goals, and how to stay on track once you've figured it out."

Pennsylvania counties most prepared for retirement

County Median household wealth Social security income Cost of living

1. Chester County.

Median household wealth: $82,915

Social security income: $19,943

Cost of living: $21,323

2. Bucks County.

Median household wealth: $74,947

Social security income: $19,825

Cost of living: $21,147

3. Sullivan County.

Median household wealth: $45,716

Social security income: $18,256

Cost of living: $14,611

4. Montgomery County.

Median household wealth: $68,334

Social security income: $19,808

Cost of living: $21,210

5. Cumberland County.

Median household wealth: $50,997

Social security income: $18,596

Cost of living: $17,636

6. York County.

Median household wealth: $44,275

Social security income: $18,285

Cost of living: $16,487

7. Northampton County.

Median household wealth: $49,433

Social security income: $18,585

Cost of living: $18,030

8. Butler County.

Median household wealth: $47,520

Social security income: $18,476

Cost of living: $17,523

9. Lebanon County.

Median household wealth: $39,178

Social security income: $18,175

Cost of living: $15,534

10. Wyoming County.

Median household wealth: $44,275

Social security income: $17,167

Cost of living: $15,676

Source: SmartAsset, a New York-based financial technology company that offers investment and retirement advice

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This article comes to us through a partnership between York Daily Record and WITF. 

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