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AARP study: Older workers, retirees Florida's biggest economic generators

A study says workers over the age of 50 and retirees are a prime economic engine for Florida.
A study says workers over the age of 50 and retirees are a prime economic engine for Florida.
Published Sep. 29, 2014

Call it Florida's hidden economy, one with a grayish tinge.

Floridians 50 or older make up just 38 percent of the state's population. Yet, despite being fewer in number, they have a bigger economic impact than younger residents here.

The older generation generates 54 percent of the state's economic output, works in 58 percent of the state's jobs, and pays 67 percent of state and local taxes. It also accounts for 58 percent of total consumer spending, the chief driver to keep the economy churning.

Those numbers — included in a report released today by senior advocates AARP and Oxford Economics — are part of a concerted effort to tout the value of Florida's so-called "Longevity Economy" and urge state leaders to do more to support and attract the 50-and-up set.

"This report adds to a growing body of research that shows that in economic terms, gray is gold," said AARP Florida state director Jeff Johnson, who is presenting the data in Orlando today at the Florida Chamber Foundation's Future of Florida Forum.

"I've heard people say old people are a drain on our economy and are a problem. This shows (that the older generation) is a bedrock of the economy."

Though Florida's population skews older than the national average, there's a common misconception that all retiree roads lead to Florida and a budding complacency that retiring Baby Boomers will move to Florida regardless, Johnson said.

Florida is still one of the country's retirement meccas, but it's losing market share to states like North Carolina and Tennessee, which have become more active in selling themselves.

"They have a Retire Tennessee just like there is a Visit Florida" to promote tourism, Johnson said. "There is no coordinated effort here … state partners or a government organization."

Instead, he said, Florida has largely left the business of luring retirees to individual developers of communities like the Villages.

Beyond focusing on retirees, Florida also can do more to attract entrepreneurs in their 50s or older who have no intention of stopping work but are at an age ripe for starting their own business, Johnson said.

As evidence of the opportunity, he pointed to a recent crowdfunding festival in Jacksonville in which hundreds of presenters pitched their products eager to get a slice of an estimated $200,000 distributed by popular vote.

The average age of presenters: 48.

Contact Jeff Harrington at (813) 226-3434 or jharrington@tampabay.com. Follow @JeffMHarrington.