Trenton Failing to Make NJ More Affordable for Seniors - Garden State Initiative

Trenton Failing to Make NJ More Affordable for Seniors


Trenton Failing to Make NJ More Affordable for Seniors

William J. Smith, GSI Staff   |   March 31, 2023


For retirees leaving their hometown and relocating out of state is a tough decision. It’s saying goodbye to family, friends, doctors, house of worship and their favorite restaurants and stores. But the fact of that matter is that in New Jersey, saying goodbye is a necessity, not a choice. And that necessity is driven by the state’s high cost of living. Yet Trenton continues to ignore this growing crisis for many families.

A new report by the senior living website Seniorly lays bare just how difficult it is for Garden State retirees to remain in New Jersey, ranking the state 48th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia, for affordability for retirees.

Half of the top 10 states – Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, Delaware and Tennessee – are considered especially tax-friendly for retirees, according to a Kiplinger analysis that takes into account taxes on income, sales, property, gasoline, cigarettes and other factors.

Conversely, the Northeast and West Coast are the least affordable for seniors on a budget, with Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and California joined New Jersey in rounding out the bottom five.

In addition to the state’s high taxes, New Jersey was ranked an outlier due to the high cost of housing with the state having the lowest percentage in the nation of residents who spend less than 30% of their income on housing. This creates an acute hardship for retirees on fixed incomes, especially with the current high levels of inflation.

These findings should come as little surprise to followers of the Garden State Initiative. In a 2021 report, Retirees and New Jersey: How we can be Perfect Together, detailed the reasons behind the flight of retirees from our state and the ramifications for our state’s bottom line.

The analysis built on a pre-pandemic GSI/FDU survey that found 33% of state residents approaching retirement were planning  to leave the state due to excessive taxation.

The analysis offered a comparison to Pennsylvania and Delaware, which are contiguous to New Jersey and represent retirement alternatives for retirees looking to stay near New Jersey; as well as Florida and Arizona, which represent two of the top national destinations for retirees who prioritize a warmer climate.

Importantly, our study also found that any loss of retirees also carries enormous fiscal implications for the future of the state.  Over the last decade, New Jersey lost at least $79 billion to the comparison states, $56 billion of which was to Florida alone.

Among our policy recommendations in the report were two tax reforms to directly address our seniors: Expanding the Income Tax exemption to include all retirement income beyond the current income caps and, rather than temporary Band-Aids like rebates, put a ceiling on Property Taxes for all Seniors and Veterans.

Unfortunately, despite claims from Governor Murphy and legislative leaders that they were serious about addressing affordability after the 2021 elections, neither proposal has advanced to fruition. In the interim, New Jersey remains unaffordable to a growing number of our senior citizens.

With the entire state legislature up for election this November, it’s a great time asking those in office: What have you done to make New Jersey more affordable for retirees? Or to those seeking office: What’s your plan to make our state more affordable for seniors?