Where to Retire – a Boomer Case Study

We continue  our research into options to move to upon retirement. Still not 100% sure we will not retire to where we are today since it has its advantages as a possible home base from which to launch our vacation travels. However, we are not immune to those dreams of the perfect retirement home in the perfect neighborhood where we can look forward to each day blissfully enjoying our senior lifestyle. In a previous blog “Retire to your Shangri La”, I discuss some keys to help decide where to retire to and/or if to move. Today I will use this guide to research one place that I believe could be our perfect retirement Shangri La.

Retire to Pacific Grove – does it fit the criteria?

I have been familiar with Pacific Grove on the California coast all my life. In fact, my parents went to Borg’s Motel for their honeymoon and return each year – rain or shine – for 53 years and counting! It holds a magical feeling as a vacation spot but how does it stack up as a place to move to and retire to? I have been researching as well as personally visiting the area to determine just that. Based on five variables – proximity to what you need most, weather, neighborhood, population makeup and density, and cost – here are the results:

(1)  Proximity to what you need most – once retired, we want  our family to be close enough to visit. Of course, we do not want them to be TOO close – no surprise door bells early Sunday morning or unexpected arrivals close to bedtime (like 9:30…). Our kids currently reside in the Bay Area and with Pacific Grove about 90 miles away, this fits – CHECK.

Also important is a small-town downtown within comfortable walking distance. The downtown area along Lighthouse Avenue is eight blocks from end to end, with small businesses on  each side. No big-name commercial food or drink in sight. Better still, it is three blocks from the ocean so as you walk the boulevard, a look over your shoulder and there is the blue Pacific with the nearby coastline hugging its periphery. CHECK.

And if we need something a bit more cosmopolitan – a night away for a fine dinner or a change of scenery – Carmel is five miles down the road.

(2)  Weather – on the coast means that dreaded FOG is a frequent visitor. The significance of this depends on the individual but no one wants to retire to a fog bank. So I strolled the downtown and asked the locals for their insight. Now they may have been trying to recruit new residents but to a one, each described typically some fog in the morning, burning off late morning and then returning in the evening. The day I visited (7/27/2010), I arrived around 11:30 and it was overcast but no fog at ground level. Within 30 minutes, blue skies and a temperature of 67. We personally do not mind a little overcast as long as sunshine arrives  before day’s end. Double checking, I went to a very helpful site http://www.citytowninfo.com and learned that historical temperatures range from a low in Jan of 43-60 degrees to a high in October of 51-70. For us, these temperate lows just mean more time in front of the fireplace! CHECK.

(3)  Neighborhood – my wife and I have got  a map to stake out different neighborhoods around Pacific Grove to investigate. First driving to get a lay of the land we then walked those most closely fitting our retirement checklist. Staying within our desired 3-5 blocks to downtown, ideally within five blocks of the waterfront, we were pleasantly surprised. Turn-of-the-century Victorians to brand new houses populated the blocks. Some neighborhoods had a more vacation/rental feel – lawns needing trimming, paint needing refreshing – but there were multiple locations that would work nicely for us. We found one that was SUPERBLY located, newly built, and stylish to the extreme. Then we realized that we are still a few years away from pulling the trigger on a retirement move so we saved the flier and headed down the street for a coffee.

And people in the neighborhood actually nodded and said hello more often than not, something Silicon Valley is not exactly famous for. So, looking good – CHECK.

(4)  Population make-up and density – Pacific Grove is a major tourist attraction, home of Cannery Row and the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. With that come busy streets during weekends and summer vacation. I personally am not a fan of crowds so this is a drawback to this choice. Our saving grace is that once retired, we will have the luxury of avoiding busy areas on weekends and venturing outside, crowd free, on weekdays.  A compromise but not a deal breaker.

Returning to http://www.citytowninfo.com for some encouraging statistics on the local population, we find:

  • Total population 15,522 => not too big, not too small
  • 65+ accounts for 19.2% of the town with a median age of 44.7
  • English, German, Irish and Italian make up 42.8%

(5)  Price – this one is different for everyone so I will leave it out of the exercise. If we could not afford a reasonable home in Pacific Grove, we should not consider moving there to retire.

On a recent visit, I took my lunch down to the waterfront and sat on a bench, enjoying the sunny afternoon. In the water a handful of harbor seals sunned and precariously balanced on rocks too small for their plump bodies. A retired couple (my guess) walked by and asked, “Have you seen the whales? The krill are in so they are feeding right here.” They smiled, held hands, and continued down the path. I smiled as I strained my eyes searching the horizon. I think this will work…I think this will work just fine.

Don’t forget to pick up a free copy of my Navigating the Retirement Jungle, available upon request by mailing to lovebeingretired@hotmail.com.


2 thoughts on “Where to Retire – a Boomer Case Study

  1. This is an excellent post for thinking about relocation when you retire. Emotion is fine but long run satisfaction requires some serious thinking.

  2. Ahhh- Pacific Grove. We lived there for a short time while my husband attended DLI.
    Since you are used to the cost of real estate and taxes in California, I guess you can dream there. It would be a “best case senerio” for us:>) I would love to live in a community like that one. The library alone is worth a good walk!