"You've got to go there to know there." -- Zora Neale Hurston

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Where's a Good Place to Retire?

     I'm just beginning to think about where my retirement home is going to be. I have a couple of friends who've already pulled the trigger. One bought a condo in Myrtle Beach, SC. The other got himself a house near Ft. Myers, Fla. I doubt either one plans to move full time. Maybe they do, I don't know. But I think they're figuring on keeping two places -- one up north, and the other in the Sunbelt.

      I, myself, don't want two residences. Aside from the issue of carrying two houses financially, I don't want the responsibility of having to worry about two places. What if there's a break-in? What if a pipe bursts? What if there's a big storm?

     Besides, I can tell by the long list of fix-it jobs and home-improvement ideas sitting there on the counter by my refrigerator -- one house, by itself, is as much as I can handle.

     Of course, the first place I can think to retire is right here, at home, where I've been living for most of my life. I'm familiar with the area. This is where my friends are. And my kids are not too far away, either.

Gee, a place like this would be nice!
     But I live in New York. And New York makes it hard on retirees, mostly because it's just too damn expensive. We pay ridiculously high real-estate taxes where I live. The state offers a discount that saves seniors a few hundred dollars, but it's a fairly weak program ... and with the budget problems, who knows how long it's going to last. Now, we do get good schools for those high real-estate taxes. That was a major benefit when my kids were younger. As I used to say, "Yeah, my taxes are high, but I have two kids in the school system and they're getting the equivalent of a private-school education -- for less than half the price! Why would I complain about that?"

     But my younger child graduated from high school seven years ago. So why am I still paying for those wonderful schools? Do I want to keep on doing that into my dotage?

     And there are plenty of other expenses to bust the budget of anyone who is no longer working:  income taxes, sales taxes, insurance, electric bills, heating bills, restaurant prices; heck, even the price of gasoline is high around where I live, higher than pretty much anywhere else I go except for Connecticut.

     I do get a senior citizen discount at the multiplex, and also at the public golf course. It's nice, but saves me a negligible amount of money.

     Then there's the weather. It's nice that we get four seasons here in the north. Spring is beautiful; summer doesn't get too hot; fall is invigorating. But then there's winter. And this year, anyway, winter seemed to last forever. We got some snow and ice on April 1 ... a cruel April Fool's joke!

This is April!?!
     Plus, while my kids don't live that far away, it's not that they come by to visit very often. And they're young; in their 20s. At any moment they could get a job in Chicago or Houston or L.A., and relocate a thousand miles away. And if my friends' initial moves are any indication -- Myrtle Beach; Ft. Myers -- they won't be around for that much longer themselves. Then the only reason to stay here would be, because I'm familiar with the area. And maybe it's time to get out of my rut anyway, and go explore some other options.

     In future posts, I'll periodically update my search for my retirement paradise. Our search. For surely, B will have some of her own opinions. (Boy, is that an understatement!) And knowing us, it'll take a while to make a decision. (Like, several years). In the meantime, I'd welcome any suggestions or ideas, pros or cons, helpful hints or knowledgeable warnings.


Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Give yourself time to think and explore. My husband and I gave serious thought to our retirement place for about ten years before we retired and moved. We were very tempted to stay put, but got tired of California taxes and traffic. We finally chose a Del Webb community in rural Arizona. It's not a bad drive back to L.A. to visit, but is a wonderful change of pace. The community we're in has great recreational, educational and hobby facilities, has its own shopping center and a hospital as well. There are similar communities nationwide, including on the East Coast. This kind of thing isn't for everyone, but while you're reviewing your options, it may be something to consider.

Anonymous said...

We were from NYC & Long Island and relocated to upstate NY. In that 1st year our expenses went from $5600 to $1200 a month. Now, with a 2nd vacation home, it's $2400 a month, but still a bargain. My kids live in NYC and I just can't move away from them. I'm a Metro train ride away.
Electric rates and heating bills are 75% less than LILCO! Same with sales tax, property taxes etc. We're thought of moving to Florida or NC (Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head, etc.) but after much thought, we're going to stay in place. Only January & February are really brutal, so we rent in Sarasota, Florida during those months. Florida is unbearable in the summer. We tried it once. By May 31st, we were out of there!
We're also now renting out our vacation home because truthfully, when you get right down to it, we really like our upstate NY home! And I like living in one house.

That's my 2 cents.

Hope said...

Like you, we discuss this quite a bit. I think we'll stay in the Midwest, only because the coasts are so crazy expensive and Florida is unbearable in the summer to someone with a cold weather background. That said, I have spent a fair bit of time in the PNW and would love it if it weren't so far from everyone I know. Our kids are scattered far and wide, and like you, I expect any of them could move any time. So it makes little sense to follow them. Great topic to chew over while drinking morning coffee, though. I hope more people comment...I'm interested in why people make the decisions they do in retirement.

Linda Myers said...

I live in the PNW and the only thing I don't love about it is January. So we'll be going elsewhere then. We've been to many parts of the US and are always glad to be home.

Tom said...

For whatever it's worth, I remember my former brother-in-law, who worked for IBM and moved around a lot, had a shorthand for the four regions of the country:

NW = Nice and Wet
SW = Sunny and Warm
NE = Nice and Expensive
SE = Sunny and ... something else, I forget.

Just thought it was kind of amusing.

Meryl Baer said...

We recently relocated to the state with the highest property taxes in the country - New Jersey, but we are still working and love the shore. We are not sure what we will do when we finally retire, but we are looking forward to spending a few weeks every winter in a different place each year. Good luck with your search!

Anonymous said...

My daughter and 3 grandchildren live in HI, w/a 4th due soon. I'm in CA and for the past 5 yrs. have been visiting them 3x a year. I wanted to relocate there, so listed my house with a 3 month contract. Meanwhile, to get more sq. footage, I would have to be stuck in traffic to see them in HI (don't relish that), and to be closer, then the square footage drops down to 600 sq. ft. approx. Anyway, I'm going to meet w/a realtor later this month to see if any of those 600 ft. high-rise units are doable. Pros and cons w/high-rises. If not, then I will take my house off the market, and continue visiting. This is not a good time to sell anyway. I also will consider renting my house in CA and renting in HI. It's a process. My house in CA is paid off, but I would have to take out a small loan to afford something in HI. I'm the type who likes to dot my i's and cross my t's, so I'm weighing everything carefully. It's these kind of leap of faith decisions that are the hardest. Meanwhile, I have a very good relationship with my daughter and grandchildren and that is important to me. When I visit those 3x a year, I rent a hotel room for us on Waikki beach for 3 weeks, and we have a very good time. In between my HI visits, I'm pretty frugal in CA, having way more than I need.

Dick Klade said...

Other things being equal (of course, they never are!) I would advise giving the highest priority to staying near your friends and family. In the economic equation, don't forget transportation costs if you move far from your children and will want to make semi-frequent visits. Also, hard as it may be to do, it probably is a good idea to try to project what your life will be like a decade, possibily two, into the future. When you hit your 70s, perhaps with the exception of going to an adult retirement community where everyone is in the same boat, you will find it is very difficult to make new friends. Most people, I think, also begin to put higher and higher values on being near their children as they age.

schmidleysscribblins.wordpress.com said...

We too have faced this dillemma. We decided years ago to fix up the old homestead and stay put. It seems living in VA is an option for many New Yorkers these days. We are called the half-back state. Folks move to FL or the deep south and then move half-back to VA. Dianne

Robert the Skeptic said...

Every so often the AARP magazine has an article about retirees living in Mexico or Costa Rica. They tout the low cost of living, even being able to have a cook and a housekeeper living on SS income alone.

But what about family, grandkids? And what do you do every day in a foreign country. We vacationed in Los Cabos for two weeks, after 10 days we were bored and ready to come home.

We have retired where we are, close to our life long friends and extended family.

Kathy Sperl-Bell said...

Have you thought about Delaware? Many people from NY, NJ, PA, MD and even CT have been gravitating to Coastal Delaware in particular. AARP rates it as one of the best states in which to retire based on low taxes. Then of course we have the beach, charming towns, history and a variety of new communities - something for everyone.
Coastal Delaware is only 2-3 hours from where friends and family live as opposed to 10 or more if you go to the Carolinas or further south.
Most of my clients are just like you and it's always fun to go through the experience with them.

GoingLikeSixty said...

We're moving to Costa Rica. Robert the Skeptic should not move anywhere. :-) And that's OK. Looking for "paradise" is a lofty goal. You might want to consider lowering your expectations. (New here via the Boomer Blog Carnival...)

Accidental Retiree said...

We started looking, or I did, about 8 years ago, and we have considered and discarded a few places: Texas, the Pacific NW, and to Southern California, whence we came.

Right now we are re-examining the Redding, CA, area. We currently live in the SF Bay Area, and we could get more house, more space, and less traffic (but fewer amenities) for our money.

We also like the good air quality up there, and my husband has a whole slew of kinfolks up there that we could spend some time with.

However, we'd get a whole lot more heat, which I am not sure I'm ready for. I would like a change but wonder whether it might just be too late?

Anonymous said...

Interesting options posted here. My husband retired a year ago and I am retiring next week!!! we live in NY in the highly taxed northern suburbs just outside of NYC.

We've spent the past 5 or 6 years looking around the SE coastal areas and have eliminated several places, but still have a few to consider. Our daughter and son-in-law are in Charlotte,and while we don't want to live there, it would be nice to be less than 12 hours away.

we plan to spend the next year or so traveling around to check out other warmer climates and possibly spend Janaury and February in both St Simons Island GA and the Sarasota Fl area. we find that you can't get a good feel for a new place in just a week.

We also have a house in the Catkills which we need to sell before relocating. I don't like owning 2 houses - its certainly not what its cracked up to be - with maintenance etc. Too many headaches.

So our plan is to take it slow and find the right spot. One house and then rent somewhere else during the seasons that are too hot or too cold!

Roberta Warshaw said...

We plan on making our condo here in Boston our home base. We both hate winters though, so we may do January through April in Tucson. Snowbirds. Just rent in AZ. No need to own 2 places. Too hard to keep up with one!

Don said...

I retired one year ago (now age 58). My wife is 55. We have lived in the Atlanta suburbs for the past 19 years but our only child (son, age 27) left here 9 years ago for college and now lives and works in the Boston suburbs. We definitely want to be nearer to him in the coming years. But for now, our aging parents live 4 hours away from us and we don't feel that we can totally relocate further away. Although we are life-long southerners, we both detest the hot, uncomfortable summers. We've been thinking that we will stay here for now, and rent from time to time in various places up north to find the right spot. We can always do the reverse years from now and come south during the coldest months. Last fall we spent 5 months renting in Massachusetts to see how we liked it and found many of the people were just as welcoming (maybe more) than southerners. Our son is currently not married but we will DEFINITELY want to be closer if/when he has his own family. It is somehow comforting to see the interest in this topic and know that so many others are going through this decision process.

Sue said...

I am a single woman looking to relocate in 6 years out of Florida to possibly Northern Georgia or North Carolina, but in the foothills as opposed to the mountains. I like the weather of both these places. I won't have a large income, so I need to have a low cost of living wherever I go. Any suggestions or ideas are welcome.

Anonymous said...

We have always had a second home in a nice warm climate for our winter months. However, 12 years ago when I retired early and unexpectedly, we really had to consider if we should stay in our suburban Washington, DC home. We ended up moving from the big single family house into a spacious condo in a high rise. Our friends are important to us and that was a major consideration. Kids aren't nearby anyway. I'm getting way too old and cranky to go to the trouble of making new friends, training new doctors and learning new driving patterns. Our decision was perfect for us.

Kathy Sterndahl said...

I retired ten years ago (at 50) and have been living very happily in Chapala, Mexico, for almost eight years. I am 20 minutes from the international airport at Guadalajara, so travel back to the states, or anywhere else, is very easy. This area has the largest community of Americans living outside the US, and there are about as many Canadians here in the winter months. I speak Spanish, but most of us don't. Medical care here is excellent and very inexpensive. The local opportunities for volunteer work and socializing are endless. I own my home with no mortgage and also have a smaller home in Barra de Navidad, a beach community on the coast which also has many Americans and Canadians. I absolutely love it down here and cannot imagine moving back to the states. My boyfriend and I have looked at other popular retirement destinations, but we've never found anything that we've liked as well as here. Moving to a foreign country is definitely not for everyone, but if you think it might work for you, this place is a wonderful possibility.

Cara Larose said...

Always explore your options when looking for a place to retire. It would be great to settle in a place where you will feel happy and contented. Never settle for anything less. A retirement home is where you should be able to just sit back and relax, so find a place that will cater to those.

Anonymous said...

I have some relatives who live in New York as well and they chose retirement communities long island. They are a bit hesitant at first but they totally love it there now. The amenities are very good and it is near great establishments so they were able to maintain their lifestyle.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see others are wrestling with the same problem my wife and I are. We've been living in the same house in the inland So. Cal. area for 30 plus years. The house is ok, not to big, not to small it's the area around us that worries us. As the area continues to grow the traffic gets heavier, the crowds get bigger and the general pace of life just continues to get more rushed as we continue to get slower. Two of your five children still live in the area and we both have other family that lives within short driving distance. I'm 66 and she's 72. I work full time,she works part time and we're not ready to give up the income those jobs provide. So I guess for the moment we'll just stay put.

Anonymous said...

I'm a single lady, considering what I will do is 6 years when I retire and enjoy reading these posts. I live in Ohio and the winters can get brutal with the storms and freezing rain. I'm thinking of downsizing to a smaller 1-storey home here and maybe buying a nice mobile home in or around Ft. Myers in which to stay during the winters. I can also offer the place to my children for their vacation use. Just a thought...