Heritage Hills is our local 55-and-over community. We know a few people who live there. But as I told our friend at dinner, the reason we didn't consider it was because of a friend of B's who I remember talking to at a Christmas party. She and her husband had sold their house about five years ago and bought a condo in Heritage Hills. But every time they went out the door, they'd see an old couple hobbling down the street. The swimming pool was full of elderly women doing water aerobics. The restaurant was crowded with widows.
Yes, there are some people in their early 60s who live there. But most of them are still working; they're gone all day. The people you see are those in their 80s, who hang around the place and never go anywhere. The woman said they found it depressing to constantly have the feeling they were living in an old-age home. It made them feel as if they were 20 years older than they really were.
|James Michener Art Museum|
Maybe some of you feel differently, but B and I just decided that we weren't ready for an age-restricted community -- and maybe never will be.
There are so many issues involved in choosing a place where we are going to retire. Most of us stay right at home. Maybe we downsize to a smaller house or a condo, but we don't move very far away because of friends and family and ... let's face it, familiarity. Those who do move tend to go someplace where the living is easier, the cost of living is lower, and the sun is always shining.
|Bucks Co. in southeastern PA|
So anyway, we're left to ponder the question: We say we want something different, but do we really want something different?
Bucks County is north of Philadelphia, as Westchester is north of New York City -- urban in the south where it abuts the city, more rural as you move north. It's basically a suburban area with lots of trees, some preserved farmland, and a temperate climate. Also, like Westchester, Bucks is home to several historical people (including writer James Michener). If you just looked around in Bucks County, without knowing where you are, you might think you were still in Westchester.
|One of ten covered bridges in Bucks Co.|
We are downsizing, from about 2800 square feet to 2100 square feet, and from one acre to one-sixth of an acre. Our little backyard is fenced in, so it will be perfect for our dog. We used to have a well and a septic tank. Now we'll have town water and town sewer. And for the first time in my life ... a garbage disposal!
Our expenses will be lower. The real-estate tax on this house is less than half what it was for our old place in New York. The heating bill will be less; the electric bill less, and since the house is smaller (although not any newer) we're hoping it has lower maintenance costs.
Also, Pennsylvania is one of 13 States Without Pension or Social Security Taxes. New York levies income tax on IRA withdrawals over $20,000. Connecticut taxes it all ... even your income from Social Security!
|We can walk here|
And honestly, if left to my own devices, I might have picked a place with a warmer climate. This area of Pennsylvania is marginally better than New York -- the average April high is 63 degrees, for example, compared to 59 degrees where we used to live -- which means spring comes a week or two earlier. But that's a compromise I've made with B, not Pennsylvania. B does not want to live in Florida (and, honestly, neither do I), and she doesn't want to go to the Carolinas, even though her son now lives there.
However, winter is not as big a deal as it once was, because we are not just relocating to a new home. We are changing over to a more mobile lifestyle. Our house will no longer consume as much of our financial resources, so we will be able to rent for a month in South Carolina, maybe more. We will go to Cape Cod or Cape May for two weeks in the summer. We might even travel a bit ... although, honestly, B and I both go against the retirement grain when it comes to traveling. We know a lot of people dream of visiting exotic places after they retire. We just don't have the travel bug.
So we're not following the typical retirement stereotype. We're not going to take a cruise or fly to Europe. We're not moving to Florida or Arizona. We're not going to live in a 55-and-over community. What we are doing is what we want to do, not what is expected of us.
Still, it's a big move, as it is for any retiree. So let the adventure begin!