Sunday, October 16, 2011

Where Do You Move When You Retire?

    As I wrote a couple of blog posts ago, B and I are planning some improvements to our kitchen. But we're going slow, because everything is expensive, and it's hard to justify spending too much on your house when the house keeps going down in value.

    Also, we don't know how much longer we're going to be living here. I assume we're eventually going to move. So does B. But we don't think about it very much because we have no immediate plans, no plans at all, actually. We're in no hurry, in part because B is still working and has no plans to retire, although every once in a while she complains that she's tired of her job, and I wonder if that's a precursor ... but also, our kids are still living around here in New York (one's living right upstairs!), so we are in no hurry to get out of town.

     Nevertheless, the subject comes up, usually at the least expected times. Like when we were standing around the kitchen the other day, discussing what we're going to do about our kitchen cabinets. They're decent cabinets, we're trying to redo this kitchen on a budget, and we've been trying to find someone to fix the cabinets rather than replace them. So we're in the middle of our discussion, and I stop to caution, "Remember, though, we don't want to cut too many corners on the cabinets. We've agreed to replace the hinges, but we've got to get something better than those flimsy things we have now, or we'll just have to fix them again in a few years."

     "No we won't," retorted B. "We won't be here when they give out next time. We'll be long gone."

     That brought me up short, since we hadn't mentioned anything about moving in months. But it also made me laugh. "We can't be long gone," I said, "until we decide on a place to go to."

     "Yeah, I know," she said, almost defiantly, as though she knows something I don't.

     And thus ended our discussion of relocating in retirement. First we have to get the kitchen done.

     But, coincidentally, that very evening I got an email from AARP, touting the top ten most affordable places to retire. So, I had to take a look.

     But first let me say, while I have nothing against the AARP, I am not a member of that organization. I consider myself way too young!

     Why I keep getting emails from them, I don't know (maybe they know something I don't?), but anyway I might consider joining ... you know, when I get old enough, like maybe in a couple of years when I start Medicare, or the following year when I reach my "full retirement age" of 66. Or maybe when I get around to signing up for long-term-care insurance. You know, when I get old.

From the U. S. Census Bureau:  Median age of population by state. The darker the green the older the residents. The "oldest" state is Maine. Then Vermont, West Virginia, Florida. The "youngest" is Alaska, followed by Utah, then Texas.









     Anyway, I perused the list:  Winchester, Va., Portland, Maine. Looks from the map like a lot of old people live in Maine. Gainesville, Ga., Ithaca, NY. Wait! Have you ever been to Ithaca, NY?

     It's beautiful in Ithaca in the summer, for three or four months. But the rest of the year the weather will weigh on you until you sink into the depths of depression. It starts snowing in October. It can snow every day for weeks at a time -- never, it seems, enough so you wake up to a beautiful, clear winter wonderland, just enough to keep the sky gray, to make a slushy mess on the roads, and to chill you to the bone all day long. Ithaca might be a great place if you also have a winter home in Florida. But then, it wouldn't be too affordable, would it?

     Tulsa, Olka., Cheyenne, Wyo., Harrisburg, Pa. Huh? I just read that the city of Harrisburg went bankrupt!

     And that emphasizes, to me, the point that you have to develop local knowledge before you can pick a place to retire. It's not enough to say Florida, or Arizona, or Oregon. You gotta get down to the granular level. I happen to know that, while I wouldn't live in Ithaca, NY, for love or money, there are plenty of nice places along the Hudson Valley of New York where I would happily retire -- New Paltz, for example, where the weather is a little sunnier, the climate a little milder, where there's a campus of the State University of New York and there are plenty of parks, cultural activities, restaurants and medical facilities.

     I also happen to know, while you might not want to be in bankrupt Harrisburg, and you wouldn't want to live in depressed Reading, Pa., either, nearby Lancaster does offer a lot of amenities for retired people, including a college campus, a top hospital, several affordable options for independent living, and lots of shopping and restaurants and cultural opportunities.

     B has said she wants to move to Doylestown, Pa., some 30+ miles north of Philadelphia. I'm not sure why. We've been there. It's a nice enough place, but I don't see what's so special about it. And it's not as affordable as New Paltz or Lancaster or a hundred other places.

     I suggested to B that we take a couple of weekend trips to Philadelphia, and scout out the surrounding area to see if there's a place that "speaks" to us. I know people who've retired to Newark, Del., about 40 miles south of Philadelphia. I think it'd be neat to retire to Cape May, NJ. Mild winters, long spring and fall seasons, and the summer's not too hot. We've been there twice on vacation. But it's kind of expensive, and New Jersey has a reputation for not being particularly nice to retired people. But at least ... I'd get another vacation to Cape May, even if we decided it's not a good place to retire.

     I have erased Florida from my mind as the place to live out my golden years. I'd always just assumed I would retire to someplace like Jupiter or Jacksonville, or Naples or Sarasota, ever since the first time I traveled to Florida when I was in college. My parents retired to Florida. I have a sister living in Florida. But over the years as Florida has become more and more crowded, it just seemed to lose its appeal.

     And then, B has a "thing" about Florida. She just doesn't like it. It was all I could do to get her to take one Florida vacation a couple of years ago. We spent five days in Naples, in February 2010, and the weather was cold. We only got to the beach one day. That did it for B. Cross Florida off the list.

     We are planning a trip to Arizona and Southern California this winter. I doubt we're going to seriously consider retiring there -- too far from home and family. Southern California is too expensive. Arizona is out in the desert -- and I just don't see us as desert people. But, you never know. It's kind of fun "shopping" for a new place to live, where the next town over the horizon might just prove to be the place you've always wanted to live.

19 comments:

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Tom, you might consider looking at Prescott and Flagstaff when you're in Arizona. Sedona is very pricey, but the other two towns are affordable and have a mild four-season climate and lots of pine trees. We live in a desert/agricultural area between Phoenix and Tucson. We made many trips and this place spoke to us and we do like it. But now, with the possibility of a copper mine near by -- which wasn't even an issue when we bought two years ago, we're not so sure we made the right choice. There's a lot to be said for staying put, especially if you want to be close to family!

Morrison said...

I retired from the eastern end of Suffolk County, Long Island, NY (and I know you know where that is) to the Hudson Valley in upstate New York.

I went from spending $5600 a month to support my lifestyle on Long Island to $1200 a month.

I'm closer to the city than the Jitney and Metro North is way cheaper. Every day I wake up here, I thank God, I'm no longer there. If you know what I mean.

Good luck.

PS: We tried the Florida route but after 3 months hubby and I ran back to the comfort of the Catskills.

#1Nana said...

I also am too young for AARP...my spouse is a member!
the publications are good and targeted to this specific population so the info is relevant. Plus, there are AARP discounts at hotels.

We considered moving, but the spouse is happy in eastern Oregon where he can hunt and fish. Although our winters are cold, we don't get much snow and we manage to take a tropical vacation during the very cold months.

June said...

For a few years I thought I had the Retirement Place nailed in Tennessee.
Four seasons, with a short winter, hills, cheap. Husband's interest seems to be waning, however, and I'm not sure he'll ever retire anyway.
I'm not sure I have another move left in me. We might stay right here. Not in Ithaca, but in a place with a very similar climate. The six-month-long winter wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have to slog out into it every single morning to go to work. Days on end of books! Ahhh.

Sightings said...

Nana, it's funny how that works, isn't it? While I'm "way too young" for AARP, B is also a member and has been for a few years. And she's four years younger than I am! Go figure.

Roberta said...

We once thought seriously about Portland, Maine. We love that town. But then we thought about winter and ruled it out rather quickly. Some friends of ours spend the winter in Tucson. We went out to visit them and that was pretty much that. We will spend the winters out there when my husband retires. We will only rent though and keep our Boston condo as our main home since family is here. They can live without us for a few months in winter though.

Roberta said...

Oh and PS. I looked at that list. Who wrote that I wonder? None of those places appeals to me at all. Except as I say Portland Maine.

Seriously, Cheyenne Wyoming? Are they kidding?

Mac n' Janet said...

We left Southern California and retired to a very small town near Savannah, GA 8 years ago. My husband is retired military so we knew we wanted to be near a military base, there are 2 here, and our daughter is in Maryland, we get to see her a lot oftener. Still happy with our choice, taxwise Georgia is good to retirees.

Dick Klade said...

My advice--don't get locked into a decision too soon. Relevant financial matters are changing, and mighty quickly.

Two months ago, Michigan had no state income taxes on retiree annuities and liberal deductions for real estate taxes. A new governor and legislature pretty much abolished both benefits for all except very low income retirees and a few elders who were grandfathered for parts of the tax breaks.

In a wink, this state changed from one that welcomes retirees to one that encourages them to move away.

The same sort of thing has happened elsewhere. Be flexible in your planning. A sudden tax hit that is likely to be permanent can be a big factor in negating the pleasures of retirement.

Chris said...

Can you get a room on James St?

MerCyn said...

We moved from Lancaster to the Jersey shore a year ago because we wanted a change. We are still employed. If we find upon retirement we cannot afford the Shore - taxes are out of sight - we might move back. Hub hates Florida and the West is too far from family. And a bonus to the shore is that our kids love to visit. I have a feeling the longer we stay the harder it is going to be to get us out of here!

schmidleysscribblins,wordpress.com said...

Dick is correct, be flexible.

I am familiar with Winchester VA. Very pretty Southern city with a restored center and near the mountains. They have some retirement villages over there too. Winchester is about an hour from me, and we have thought about moving there but my daughter is south of us, not west of us, and I want to be near her.

Harrisonburg PA is between Philly and DC and on the main n-s thorofare.

Been to Ithaca many times and love the place, but it is $$$.

Florida? Forget it. Hot-hot-hot in summer.

Portland is swell but too far from my kids, except the one in San Diego CA.

Median not the best way to measure age. Yes it is midpoint, but the distribution matters too. Proportion 65 is better. PA is very old, as are AZ and FL. PA has continued outmigration from most of the state. Eastern PA is much younger. AZ is mostly in-migrants 65+ as is FL. Both have a fairly steady population as death rates are high. Makes for an area with a shortage of medical workers. Something to think about. ME? Forget it. My pal Kathleen just returned to VA. She could not take the cold winters.

Olga said...

Going back and forth between Vermont and Florida--I'm old where ever I go. We at one time thought we would move to FL, but are happier right now with both places. When we get too decrepit to travel back and forth, we will settle in Florida

Don said...

I retired just over a year ago and we are spending some time looking for our "place to be". We are in north Georgia (Atlanta exurbs) but our only son lives in Boston area. We spent 5 months near there last fall trying it out and liked it but not the housing costs. Never have figured out the reason for that. So for now, we are keeping our house in Georgia as a home base as we read and travel to possible places. We just visited Winchester, VA, and it is very nice. However, it seemed like a place for the younger crowd to me. We actually WANT to be near other retirees. Been reading about Lewisburg, PA, lately. About 6 hours drive from Boston and it is a college town. Anyone know more about it?

Douglas said...

I got that AARP thing ( a reluctant member am I, hoping to take advantage of discounts) but, like all of those "best places to..." lists, the demographic they use is not one that describes me. I happen to like Florida but you are correct that it is too crowded; all the best places are. And it gets way too hot in the summer (yet I still play golf 3 or 4 days a week during that time...). I grew up down here (near Miami when it wasn't crowded) and without AC so I can handle it (I tell myself). If I had my druthers and unlimited funds, I would live in the San Diego area as close to the ocean as possible. But we work with what we have, don't we?

Choosing where you will live in retirement is tough, it's hard to leave places you've spent most of your life in.

Anonymous said...

Aging tends to affect the immune response to various infections, including molds/fungus. Before deciding on the next place to move you may want to research the area's risk level re: these concerns. There are plenty of infectious disease (ID) resources on-line to assist in a ID risk comparison geographically.

Jo said...

I think Virginia sounds lovely. I have always wanted to visit there. I would have to be in a place where there are four distinct seasons.

When I retire, I probably will stay right where I am because I am so broke, broke, broke. Besides, Vancouver is consistently listed as the number one city in the world in which to live, so I guess I couldn't do too badly by staying here.

I think you will love Arizona, by the way. :-)

Deb said...

SW Washington State for us. We've already moved here while we're working. No state income tax, low property taxes (just $1,600 a year for a 900 sq foot home on 4 acres).

1 hour from Portland, Oregon where our families are. 2 hours from Seattle. Close to the mountains for skiing, close to the beach, lots of boating, fishing, outdoor recreation. Temperate climate.

Yes we get rain, but head to the central part of the state and it's sunny. Plenty of opportunities for that with long weekends.

I don't know why I'm telling anyone this - I like that we're not crowded out here and I want it to stay that way. In fact, don't come here, it's awful! :o)

helena grace said...

My husband and I are in this conversation now -- about fixing up the house. For us? For how long? And if we don't stay in this house do we just move closer in to the city to be more convenient to services and friends? thanks!