June 30, 2013

Another View: Maine's retirees benefit economy, don't drag it down

A recent column suggested that all retired Mainers are dependent. That is not the case.

By Clifford S. Russell

Charles Lawton's Sunday column ("A demographic meteorite is aimed at Maine," June 23) warns of the perils of the "dependency ratio" (the ratio of very young plus very old citizens to the number of "working-age" citizens). He says that the dependency ratio is "rising inexorably" and that what is coming down the road "looks anything but good."

But before we decide to believe Mr. Lawton that the sky is falling, we ought to look more carefully at the demographic and economic details.

The most important details involve the old (often retired) folks, and the key question is: What proportion of them are actually "dependent" on Maine workers funding their retirements through pension plans for state workers, teachers and others similarly placed?

The other, happier, side of this coin is: How many are, in effect, employees in a very large export industry, having brought their retirement funding to Maine from elsewhere? This latter group is not dependent on Maine workers but, in fact, supports the Maine economy through its purchases and tax payments.

My bet is that the "retirement export" groups is large and economically more important than the group implicitly worrying Mr. Lawton.

Perhaps he will enlighten us on this in the future, before we start trying to discourage retirees moving into the state.

Clifford S. Russell is a resident of Alna.


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