Living Retirement to the Max – bits and bytes #1

In recent wanderings and research I have discovered some worthwhile information and helpful websites that address retirement and how to live a satisfying retired life. There is a good amount of collective wisdom in the blogosphere with financial experts sharing their knowledge and retired folks sharing the details of their journey as they learn each day how to best navigate the retirement jungle (which by the way is the name of my eBook which is available for you at no charge by sending an email to lovebeingretired@hotmail.com!). Here is a handful that stood out:

  • www.Kp.org/thrive – I was listening to the radio today and heard Kaiser Permanente explain that anything we do out of the ordinary works our brain and helps our mental fitness. For example, saying the alphabet backwards or eating with your other hand or entering the store from the other side than what you are accustomed to. All of these are out of the ordinary and make your brain work. There website includes brain teasers – daily I think – under the Mind Body Spirit tab. Keep your brain working to earn its keep!
  • I have discussed a few times factors that go into considering a move to a new location to retire. There are tons of variables and it is a big decision so you want to make the right one on your first shot. “Moving? Rent First, Ask Questions Later” makes an excellent case for renting before you buy. To make the right decision, you want to really know the neighborhood and the only 100% effective way to do that is to live there. But do so before you buy.
  • My main man Bob Lowry shares his insight in Life-Shaping Decisions. Bob definitely has it figured out as far as what is important in life and he shares his journey so that we can learn from his first-hand-experience and insight into a living a satisfying retirement.
  • In You Can’t Retire on an Empty Stomach Mark Patterson shares with us the real importance of carefully and thoroughly planning for our financial future. He describes the sad statistic that this year, six MILLION older Americans will go hungry. But he also gives us a simple way to pitch in and help.
  • Money Ning helps our living retirement to the max cause in 10 Ways Consumers are Getting Ripped Off pointing out some little known areas deserving our attention. Although premixed baby formula may not be significant in our retirement planning, travel insurance, cable TV, and airline membership sure sound close to home.

These blogs offer some good reading for retirees looking for only the best in their retired life. All of the sites mentioned post regularly and their content is both entertaining and worthy of our attention. With all of this combined knowledge and experience, living retirement to the max is not a dream but can be a reality – if we choose to make it so.

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

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.


Retire to your Shangri La

In our household, we have been paying our mortgage for over 15 years and are in pretty good shape as far as our ability to handle the remaining balance. We did compare mortgage refinance companies using Credible at one point but that was mainly out of curiosity. We recently did some serious renovations, upgrading, and modifying, basically replacing EVERYTHING but the kitchen sink – actually a new kitchen sink too! The neighborhood is quiet and populated by young families as the local schools are known widely for their excellence. And both Starbucks and Peets are a mere 15 minute walk with no hills in between. There are definitely worse places to retire to.

So why would we even contemplate moving elsewhere upon retirement? What is it that we could possibly be looking for in a new home base? What variables should we consider before making a move? And where can we find good information on where we can happily retire to?

Should you move?

Before contemplating a move to your retirement Shangri La, consider one important trade off – you can move to your new retirement house and neighborhood and a fresh start or you can stay where you are and instead spend money on traveling to the myriad of worldwide Shangri Las out there. And you will be able to afford to travel in retirement. Keep your current hopefully-almost-paid-off house as your home base, comfortable and well known, and break out the atlas. Big plus is the variety you will experience in your journeys, each time returning to your safe nest at the end of the trip. The chance you take in wandering is you are never 100% sure what you are getting until you walk in the door. But hey, we all love a little excitement.

If you do decide to venture out and permanently relocate for your retirement, you will need to decide what things are most important to you. And then to realize there will be trade-offs in your wish list. The “perfect retirement place”, with every little thing your heart desires, does not likely exist (if you should find it, please share). So it may take a little compromise in the final analysis.

An effective way to help visualize variables influencing your decision is the old Ben Franklin analysis. Make two columns. Label the first column “plus” and the second “minus”. As you research and review your key variables (see a partial list below), place them in the appropriate column. Continue your information gathering, building out the comparison. At any given moment, you can quickly compare to help point you in the best direction.

For Your Consideration

Here is a list of five variables to assist you in your relocation research:

(1)  Cost of housing – pretty obvious one here but you want to minimize your ongoing mortgage payment once retired – zero would be best. One option is to sell your current house and use the proceeds to buy your retirement home outright. Prices vary widely across the US so depending on your other most important variables, you may actually be able to upgrade while paying less for the new house. Here is a helpful link that shows some average home prices across the US plus things like median income, population, and reviews by others: http://www.boomerater.com/newsurroundings/find-your-perfect-town.

(2)  Proximity to what you need most – this is based on individual preferences and will play a significant role in your ultimate decision. For example, for us, a big priority is to be within walking distance of the Mayberry-RFD-like downtown area – say 3-5 blocks – without any significant hills along our path. We hope to be just like any other local – where everybody knows our name – with a regular coffee shop, nice bakery that makes fresh croissants each morning, some variety when it comes to dinner options, and of course a warm, friendly watering hole with a good selection of California red wines!

So how important is it to be near – and how do you define near (4 blocks; ½ mile; 50 miles) – things like the beach, mountains, fishing, downtown, shopping mall, the symphony, coffee shop, plays, local restaurants. Will you be walking, biking, or driving?

(3)  Weather – do you need sun or is a little fog okay? How are you with hot versus cold? Or better very hot versus very cold? Will cloudy skies rain on your parade or can you deal with a little precipitation? The more desirable the weather, the higher your (1) will be.

(4)  Neighborhood – how important is the neighborhood culture? For example, average age of the population, mix of professional versus blue collar, schools, social activity. You definitely want to spend some time driving and walking the prospective area to get a first-hand feel for the culture – once retired, you want to feel comfortable and safe in your new home.

My VP Sales awhile back was adamant that he would only retire somewhere near a big university where there was “always something going on” – he chose Santa Barbara and has not regretted it one moment.

(5)  Population/density of people – can you deal with rush hour traffic when you retire or do you prefer a slower pace? Do crowds and lines make you tense or are you by nature patient?

Odds and Ends – for those personal touches, those final details to make your retirement destination just so. Here are a few examples that tickle our fancy and are on our most important list:  must have one awesome burrito place; tip top martini joint; good, spicy Thai restaurant; locale for that perfect cup of morning java (Starbucks/Peets are “okay”, but a neighborhood brewery would be ideal); along that note, local brewery with just-right-suds; corner grocery store with a bit of everything; bakery for that fresh morning or afternoon pastry; and a wine shop with a nice diversity to satisfy our love of good vino.

Ultimately the where to retire to decision is a combination of research and fact gathering along with gut feeling, wishful dreaming and a dash of risk. You want to find inspiration in your retirement life. Do your homework and have fun. The world is full of exciting places to live and I believe that there is someplace out there just right for each of us.

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