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Will Virginia Voters Demand Answers on Retirement Security?

Many retirees in Virginia live on incomes of less than $20,000 a year, primarily from Social Security benefits. (Adobe Stock)
Many retirees in Virginia live on incomes of less than $20,000 a year, primarily from Social Security benefits. (Adobe Stock)
October 7, 2019

RICHMOND, Va. — With state and local elections in Virginia less than a month away, AARP Virginia says it's prime time for voters to get candidates to address retirement security issues.

The typical working household nearing retirement in the Commonwealth has a little over $14,000 in savings, said Natalie Snider, program director at AARP Virginia. That's compared to a national average of $100,000 just a few years ago, according to a Transamerica Center report. Snider said the gap is setting older Virginians up for financial hardship.

"So if you've only got $14,000 saved up for retirement and you're spending $20,000 annually, that is not a sustainable ratio at all,” Snider said. “You can't even make it through your first year of retirement on that amount of money."

A Work and Save bill failed to pass in the 2019 general assembly. Similar to programs in Maryland and CaliforniaI, the bill would have created a voluntary retirement program in Virginia for people who don't otherwise have an option through their workplace. Snider said AARP Virginia will push for passage again in 2020.

Nearly 17% of all Virginians are of retirement age, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And Snider said the average annual Social Security income for retirees age 65 and up in the state is just $18,000. Such a small amount of money to live on puts them in a precarious position, and she said the folks running for office need to know this and have ideas for improving long-term financial security.

"We're encouraging people to find those candidates who they are thinking about voting for on social media, tagging them in a post, sharing our information and saying, 'Hey, I'd like to know how you plan, if you get elected, to help Virginians save for retirement,’” Snider said.

All 140 seats in Virginia's Legislature are on the November ballot. A list of the General Assembly candidates and their contact information has been posted on the AARP Virginia website.

Disclosure: AARP Virginia contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Diane Bernard, Public News Service - VA