Taxes and cost of living were the factors considered when developing the list, according to study
By Payne Horning
Another year, another bad rating for New York’s climate for retirees. The Empire State has wound up in third place in 2018 “Worst States For Retirement” study from TopRetirements.com. Taxes and cost of living were the factors considered when developing the list.
According to TopRetirements.com, New York residents pay an average of $3,755 annually in property taxes. Only New Jersey and Connecticut, ranked first and second respectively, pay more on average. New York’s high cost of living, the third most expensive in the country, also sunk its overall rating. State income taxes were also considered, with New York dinged for its large marginal tax rate of 8.82 percent.
New York consistently gets poor marks in retirement rankings. But Patrick Fox, a driving course instructor and volunteer with Rochester’s AARP chapter, says there’s more to this story. The 70-year-old chose to retire in New York after living most of his life in the state.
“Let’s be honest, the downside of living in New York state is we’re a high-tax state,” Fox said. “Nothing’s perfect. But from my perspective, New York state is a state that’s making a sincere effort.”
Fox says New York state has a long history of being accommodating to seniors. Social Security and government pension income are exempt — one of the few “pluses” of retiring in New York that was mentioned in the TopRetirement.com study. The state offers to help supplement part of the out-of-pocket costs for the Medicare Part D drug plans with the Elderly Pharmaceutical Income Coverage (EPIC) program. And seniors can get assistance paying for New York’s high tax rates with the state’s Enhance Star system, which offers older homeowners increased tax relief benefits.
In addition to some favorable policies, Fox says the state and individual communities are actively working to create more age-friendly communities — including the Rochester area.
“Many of the towns in Monroe County and the city of Rochester have taken a serious look at that,” Fox said. “It means realizing that if we’re going to keep seniors aging in place, they need sidewalks to walk on, they need access to basic amenities like food, designation of bicycle lanes, etc.”
In Fox’s hometown Irondequoit, New York state is building a brand new affordable senior housing complex. The $17.5 million Durand Senior Apartments will provide 70 units, some of which are being designed specifically to accommodate those with wheelchairs and visual and hearing impairments. The housing community will also include a social adult day care center.
Public officials in the area are also working on a comprehensive study of the Regional Transit Service, which serves Monroe County. The “Reimagine RTS” planning process aims to explore potential changes to the transit service to better suit the changing needs of the area, including growing demand from seniors.
“I’m impressed with the willingness of people to realize that with a growing senior population that predominantly wants to age in place, we are looking at ways to do that,” Fox said.
The Rochester area also offers many cultural assets as well, Fox says. There’s theater, festivals, sporting events, bus tours and trips to area casinos. And many of these events also offer discounts for seniors.
“There’s a sense in this community that we recognize that we have a senior population and that both government and nongovernment entities are making real efforts to say that’s an important community for us to engage with,” Fox said.
Cost of living expenses in the Rochester area are not as high as they are downstate. But the entire state suffered a setback last year when federal lawmakers passed a new tax cut that capped state and local income tax deductions to $10,000 – something that AARP fought.
TopRetirement.com notes that it could make blue states with higher taxes like New York more unappealing to retirees.
Over the years, Fox has seen some of his wealthier friends leave New York for states with lower taxes. And he acknowledges that the new cap on tax deductions could make the situation worse. But Fox says New York offers many programs that can cut down on those costs.
“There are many seniors who retire on the margins and New York state’s social support network is very strong,” Fox said. “It doesn’t leave seniors behind.”
It’s that type of responsiveness, Fox says, that encourages him and many others to continue their retirement years in the Empire State.