Sunday, April 9, 2017

Our Best Place to Retire: Part 2

     We had dinner last night with some old friends who we hadn't seen in a while. We caught up on a lot of things, including the fact that we're moving away. We told them some of the reasons why we're relocating, and they congratulated us, and then the woman asked, "Did you consider moving to Heritage Hills?"

     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
     So they sold their unit and bought another condo in town, one that was more integrated into the community, that had a greater diversity of residents, that didn't indelibly mark them as old geezers.

     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
     B and are doing neither. We are moving to Bucks County, Pennsylvania. We've both lived in Westchester County, NY, for the past 40 years. We determined to move out of Westchester when we retired. And so now we have picked Bucks County, which, like the Volvo compared to my Saab, is about as close to Westchester as you can get, without actually being in Westchester itself. It's kind of like, if you lived in the Washington, DC, area, moving from Maryland to Virginia; or if you lived in California, from Sonoma to Santa Cruz (maybe ... I'm not so sure about that one).

     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.
     But we have made a few changes. We used to live in a 1970s development a few miles out of town. We had to drive everywhere. Now we're moving into town. We'll have a sidewalk, and we'll be able to walk a half mile or so to downtown, past some old Victorian-style homes, past a school and a church, along tree-lined streets to a coffee shop, a restaurant, the train station, or the movie theater.

     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
    There are some drawbacks -- for, just because you're retired doesn't mean you don't have to compromise. We'll be closer to B's family, and we have one friend who lives nearby. We'll be no farther from my son in Brooklyn, and a little closer to our kids in the Carolinas. But for the most part, we'll be starting over, making new friends and finding new activities.

     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!

27 comments:

Mac n' Janet said...

Hope you like your new location. Neither my husband or I do winter so when we took early retirement, we were in our 50's, we knew it had to be some place reasonably warm. We were living in southern California, but didn't want to retire there. We chose coastal Georgia and that was nearly 14 years ago and we like it even more than we did when we first moved here.

Olga Hebert said...

I think that you did all the right research and I hope the move works out well for you both. My Florida home is in a 55 and over community, something I never thought would be an option. I seek most of my social activities outside of the community though. People here probably think I am quite anti-social, but I find I really need more diversity in my life.
My Aunt Mildred moved into an assisted living place abut then moved out after a month. She told me it was because there were too many old people there. She said, "I am only 82! I can't live like that." I try to carry on her example.

DJan said...

It sounds quite perfect to me. I love the Pacific Northwest, where we chose to retire, and I've not been sorry in the nine years since. Sometimes the rain gets to me, but usually there's enough blue skies that I am just fine. :-)

Rian said...

Of course I have never heard of Buck's County, but love the 2 pics! I think it's smart to move somewhere where you can actually walk to places you like... coffee shops, restaurants, etc. And we're not big on 55+ communities either. Our neighbors moved to Heritage Farms here, but moved again after about a year to Georgetown, a neighborhood outside of Austin. I think you are going to love your new place, but do keep us informed!

Celia said...

Sounds great especially the walkable part. That was one of the selling points for the condo I bought. Congrats on your new home, may it be wonderful for you.

christina neumann said...

I actually know Bucks county. many years ago my Stepfather in law and his family owned a wonderful farm in Bucks county. They used it a summer place. It was on a lot of acres and had a wonderful screened in porch and old cook stove. In 1969 when I was dating my husband to be, we watched the moon walk on an old black and white tv in Bucks County, Pa.
Good luck with your move sounds really nice.

Anonymous said...

Yeahaa! I was pulling for South Carolina. But we all have our choices. We love your new area. Love the Brandywine Valley. Loved the Wyeth
home and museum. Always stay in New Hope, PA or Lambertville, NJ when close to the area. Just a short drive up the Taconic Parkway to
Stockbridge, MA and the Norman Rockwell environs and museum. Ergo, Lenox, MA and Tanglewood. All the best!

gigihawaii said...

I have never been to Pennsylvania. I hope you and B will enjoy your new home.

Tom Sightings said...

Thanks for all your good wishes. But ... Calif. to Georgia; Vermont to Florida; Colorado to Washington. This makes me realize all over again how we're taking baby steps when so many others have taken big giant leaps. Anyway, Gigi, I have never been to Hawaii, so we're even, altho' we're probably different in the sense that one day I would like to at least visit Hawaii, while I bet PA is not on your bucket list. However, if you ever do get there, look us up!

Carole said...

Congrats Tom! So happy for you and B. You did it exactly right; picking a location that works for you. I especially like the idea of being so close to town and not so reliant on a vehicle.

Linda Myers said...

Sounds like a good decision for you and B. We do winter at a 55+ community in Arizona, and our regular neighborhood near Seattle otherwise. Suits us.

Wisewebwoman said...

I believe the retirement decision-making for a couple is very different than for a singleton.

I can see this working for you both and I wish you a stellar life in your newfound home.

XO
WWW

Karen D. Austin said...

This sounds like a wonderful place to live. Thanks for sharing the details. Enjoy.

Stephen Hayes said...

Mrs. Chatterbox and I are in a similar situation. We've lived in rainy Oregon for 37 years and now with Mrs. C. about to retire we're ready for a change of scenery and weather. And Oregon is one of the worst states for retirees. But where to go...?

Anonymous said...

I had a feeling you were coming to PA....welcome...I love not paying for State Pension and Social Security taxes also. My daughter who lives in NC was able to find a one way plane ticket to Philly from Charlotte for $49 on Frontier last year prior to Thanksgiving. This winter was very mild, in the 70s in Feb. so you can't complain about the weather every winter. Love visiting the Wyeth museum also...have you jumped and pumped at the top of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum Rocky style yet?

Tom Sightings said...

I agree, the decision is absolutely different for a single. "What will you do if I die first?" B has asked me (altho' I'm much more likely to be the first to go). I would move to a condo or some kind of development ... altho' still probably not an age-restricted community.

As for the weather, as B would be quick to tell you, it doesn't take much for me to complain!

Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and it is of great interest! My husband and I have some time to think about where we would like to live in retirement. I am finding it so interesting to read all the comments regarding different areas. We actually live in PA right now, but our property taxes are high(well, I guess that is a relative term if yours will be lower in Bucks county!). And we are getting tired of snow, although this winter hasn't been that bad. Wishing you the best with your move.

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Congratulations Tom and B! it sure sounds to me like you've "rightsized" your home and your life. It does take a lot of exploration (both inner and outer) and it was also great that you didn't RUSH it either. I'm sure that you will be happy in your new home because you have thought about it from so many angles. I really believe we would all be so much better off if we did that. And I definitely agree about the over 55 communities...while they offer tons of great benefits, they just didn't feel right to Thom and I either. Of course, there is nothing in rightsizing that says you can't change your mind in a few years either. Remember, foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds! ~Kathy

Keep the Faith said...

All the best to you and B in your new life in Bucks County. I visited Chester last year for a week and loved the area. I didn't know that SS and Pension aren't taxed in Pennsylvania. Something to think about and look forward to hearing more about your move. I live in Connecticut so I hear you loud and clear when it comes to taxes. Plus the State is in deep financial trouble at this time.

retirementreflections said...

Congratulations on your new home, Tom!!
I highly recommend joining their Newcomers Club.
That worked for Richard and me when we moved to Vancouver Island -- without knowing a soul here. We made great new friends that way -- and also quickly found a book club for me and golfing buddies for Richard!

retirementallychallenged.com said...

That sounds exciting! Congrats. I have to agree with your assessment of some 55+ communities. Buy and die... yikes! You are way too young and active to be happy in that type of setting. (I know many are nice, but others are not so much.)

Still the Lucky Few said...

It looks like you and B. have given this a great deal of thought, and considered it from all sorts of angles.About the 55+ communities, though...People most likely buy a condo in these places long before they become 'afflicted' with old age—I just have to make a plea against ageism here, because that's what it feels like! It seems I was in my early 60s only a couple of years ago, and here I am, suddenly 77! I am far from infirm, and intend to stay as healthy and vigorous as possible. I find it difficult to accept that I am now part of a group that younger people wish to avoid, since that has not been my experience. And hey, everyone, all Boomers especially—the years roar by, and before you know it you too will be, well, old.

Morgan said...

I think a colder climate can actually be a lot easier once you are retired. As long as you stay prepared (stocked up on wood, oil, generator, etc) then when the bad weather comes you can just batten down the hatches and wait it out. If you were still working you'd be forced to battle the weather to get in and out. I would hate to live in a snowy climate now... but I think winter when you don't have to leave the house every morning might be a lot better.

Maureen said...

I just found your blog... what a wonderful, supportive community! I lived on the east coast for 30 years, have a sister who lived in Westchester County for a long time, know Bucks County and am a bit homesick from your pictures! Congratulations. But I do want to put my 2 cents in for 55 Plus Communities - I moved from DC to a Phoenix 55 Plus Community before I was even 55 and have found, to my admitted surprise, that I have more connections, more friends, more to do than I have had in a very long time. There is something to be said for living with a group of people who moved to a specific place because they want to be involved in a community. So - 55 Plus is working for me. But I sure do love my visits east!

marna sag said...

Tom I live in Montgomery county and I think you made a great choice. Doylestown? Are you aware that PA lottery money goes to transportation for people over 65? You can go on the train to downtown Phila. for $1. To the airport for $2. All the buses and subways in Phila. are free. Doylestown hospital is owned by the physicians who practice there. I use several of those doctors. Also a bus goes to NYC.

Terra Hangen said...

I love that you will be able to walk to a coffee shop, restaurant, etc. and there is a church along the walk. I can walk from my home to a coffee shop, restaurant and a brew pub, which is great. And you will have no state income tax, that is a big plus. Here in California we have a high income tax (10 percent or so), plus in the city we I live a 10 percent sales tax. So your move seems well planned and to a nice area.

Barbara said...

Playing catch up again and this was a great read. Well thought out and I think logical in your decision. You never know what the future holds so make your best guess and go for it. I look forward to hearing more about the new location.