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Retirement

A passenger rides the CATC bus through Casper in October. The state of Wyoming faces challenges in the coming years as its aging population struggles to save for retirement.

Wyoming is facing an economic crisis. Just look at the numbers:

$122,000: The average out-of-pocket cost of health care for every individual past the age of 70.

$312 million: The amount of state and federal money that will be spent on nursing home beds in Wyoming by 2030.

78 percent: The proportion of Americans who are “extremely” or “somewhat” concerned about retirement savings.

138,100: The estimated number of Wyoming residents aged 65 and older by 2030.

If you aren’t concerned, it’s time to start paying attention.

Wyoming’s population is rapidly aging out of the workforce. Many residents are ill-prepared for retirement. As health care costs rise and the elderly population grows without the means to afford these costs, the burden is left to be shouldered by the state and the younger generation of taxpayers.

And subsequently, the costs for everyone are rising.

We’re glad to see that the Wyoming Legislature is planning to discuss this issue during the interim. The challenges are complex, and solutions won’t be easy to come by. But we’re quickly approaching the end of the runway and it’s time to take action.

We know that too few people are saving properly for retirement. Roughly one-third of Americans who are saving have $25,000 or less put away for their golden years, and worse still, 1 in 5 aren’t saving at all. And while some savings is better than none, the average cost of health care far outweighs the small sum that many Americans are entering their retirement with.

The situation in Wyoming is especially concerning, because the senior population is growing faster than the rest of the country. This highlights other pressing concerns, like ensuring that the state has enough services to meet the needs of this growing population. Will there be enough beds in long-term care facilities over the next decade? Will there be enough staff to run them?

It’s certainly the Legislature’s job to ensure these issues are addressed.

When it comes to preparing adults in the state for the financial challenges of retirement, the Legislature will need to be open-minded. And so will residents throughout the state. Mandatory IRA contributions, expanding the state pension system to private employers or creating a Wyoming-specific program similar to Social Security are among the many ideas on the drawing board, along with creating incentives for employers to offer workplace retirement plans.

Finding a solution may be costly and difficult, but the alternative is much more dire. What will happen to our economy when the working population is outnumbered by retirees and the cost of health care has risen exponentially?

Immediate solutions begin with discussion. And the impact that this impending crisis will have on our state compared to the amount of discussion surrounding it is far too imbalanced. We hope that the Legislature recognizes these facts as warnings and takes action before the problems become any larger.

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