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WNC Business

Retirement's economic impact

Sep 30, 2023 04:45PM ● By Randee Brown

An increase in the number of WNC’s retirees generates jobs, business opportunities, and unpaid contributions within the region.

According to The Longevity Economy® Outlook by AARP, older residents play a critical role in the state’s economic growth. In 2018, the population of individuals 50 years of age and older represented 36% of the population but contributed 40%, or $225 billion, of the state’s GDP. Those numbers are projected to increase to $739 billion and 44% of the state’s GDP by 2050. 

The 50+ population’s activities supported 2.7 million jobs, generating $152 billion in wages and salaries in 2018. These activities contributed $16 billion in state and local taxes, predicted to quadruple to $61 billion by 2050.

This population accounts for 56% of consumer spending across the state. The majority of this spending is on healthcare, as this population collectively spent $60 billion on healthcare in 2018, projected to increase to $231 billion by 2050. The healthcare spending category is followed by housing and utilities, leisure and hospitality, then motor vehicles and parts. Other significant spending categories include groceries, financial services and insurance, clothing, and technology.

Unpaid contributions by this population are also significant. Volunteering and caregiving for children and adults provides a value of $22 billion to the state, with the average individual spending 52 hours volunteering and 460 hours caregiving during 2018.

Western North Carolina contains five of the top 10 best counties in which to retire, based on a SmartAsset study determined by the number of doctors’ offices, recreation centers, and retirement centers per thousand residents in each location. Top counties include Buncombe, Henderson, Macon, Madison, and Polk. ranked NC towns with the highest retiree income, and WNC towns represented 15 of the 100 top-ranked towns in the state. Household income of retirees in those 15 WNC towns averages $35,756 annually.