Waukesha County residents well-prepared for retirements
Rank No.1 in state, high nationally


June 20, 2015

WAUKESHA - Retirement can be a scary word for those not prepared, but the good news is that in general, Waukesha County residents have a strong footing for those later years in life, according to area financial planners and a recent study.

A report released this week by SmartAsset, an online publication that analyzes data, revealed that Waukesha County residents were outperforming other state residents in their efforts to prepare for retirement.

“The results show that residents of Waukesha County are doing their best to prepare themselves financially for retirement — as they not only finished first in Wisconsin for this study, but ranked number 107 in the U.S. out of 3,067 counties,” Managing Editor AJ Smith said.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey, MIT Living Wage Calculator and other sources, SmartAsset researchers learned that the median household wealth in Waukesha County is $75,038 and cost of living is $19,983. Social security income for county residents is generally around $20,004. The income tax as percentage of gross income is 3.22 percent. All of these numbers give Waukesha County a 57.54 on the retirement readiness index.

Statewide, the median household income is $30,552, cost of living is $17,555 and Social Security income is $17,542.

Smith said SmartAsset added each location’s wealth-to-expenses and tax indices to yield a final number. The final number was indexed so higher values reflect counties in which residents are the most ready for retirement, with the top-ranked county (in this case, Sumter County, Fla.), getting a score of 100. The highest scoring county received a 100 and subsequent rankings were benchmarked against it.

Bill Schweitzer of WJS Wealth Management in Brookfield said most Waukesha County residents are planning and prepared for retirement, but it’s often the unexpected that can hurt their plans.

“A lot of them don’t understand the land mines that are out there,” he said, giving unexpected long-term illness, chronic nursing home expenses and dementia as examples.

Some insurance agencies now offer products to help protect individuals and their nest eggs. Some products will allow a person to collect money from their life insurance policy prior to death when needing to deal with a long-term chronic illness.

“People are living longer and studies have shown that when you have a husband and a wife aged 65 and both have not had any heart disease, cancer or diabetes, there’s a 40 percent chance that one of those husbands and wives will reach 92 and still need an income,” Schweitzer said. “Now we are talking a 27-plus year retirement where our parents did not have as long of a retirement timeframe.”

Julie Ellenbecker-Lipsky of Ellenbecker Investment Group in the City of Pewaukee recommends that five years before retirement, people attempt to live off their retirement budget to see if it needs any adjusting. At that point, there is still time to do adjusting to the plan.

“I do believe that Waukesha County has a pretty strong presence of people who think longer term for retirement,” she said.

People do need to be aware of items that will affect retirement, such as taxes and inflation, risk-adjusted return and health care.

At Ellenbecker, advisors work with clients to identify their personal risks for now and in the future with the intent to mitigate those risks now.

Ellenbecker-Lipsky said it’s never too late nor too early to begin thinking about retirement. Financial awareness should begin in earnest during teenage years and 20s and retirement planning is a component of that.

“I think people are starting to take more ownership of retirement,” she said.