Saturday, June 18, 2011

5 Reasons To Stay Put For Retirement

This is a guest post by Claes Bell who writes for

It's an idea firmly enshrined in American culture: No retirement is complete without a move to a sunny local primarily inhabited by fellow retirees. After years of work, the thinking goes, retired folks deserve a permanent vacation in a glamorous, sunny locale, preferably near a beach or golf course.

According to a survey commissioned by Del Webb, a retirement community builder, 42 percent of those who turned 50 in 2010 planned on moving for retirement.

But as a Florida resident, I can say with some certainty that when it comes to retirement paradise, reality often comes up short. Years of reading newspaper articles about retired transplants being abused in crooked retirement homes, targeted by fraudsters and trapped in their condos for days on end after hurricanes have left me jaded on the idea of a retirement paradise.

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I believe South Florida is a particularly bad place to retire. Every place presents its challenges for the elderly. What I find fault with is the idea of picking up and moving away for retirement in the first place. Here are five reasons why.

1. What's good for a 65-year-old isn't always great for an 80-year-old. A lot of the problem with the idea of an ideal retirement community comes down to the fact that retirement lasts a long time and so encompasses a lot of physical and financial changes. A place that's awesome for an active, fit 65-year-old who can mow the yard and drive can sometimes be terrible for a 75- or 80-year-old who finds themselves unable to do either.

2. Moving doesn't guarantee a better cost of living over time. It seems like for a lot of folks, the idea behind making the big move is to find a place with a lower cost of living to help stretch your retirement dollars. The problem is, you get enough retirees moving in to an area, and suddenly, the cost of living can rise sharply. Take South Florida, for instance. Between 2002 and 2010, the Consumer Price Index for the U.S. rose 21 percent; in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, it rose more than 27 percent.

3. Real estate is tricky. For many years, the general consensus was selling your home and buying a cheaper place in a retirement haven in the Sun Belt was a financially savvy move. Not only could you cash out the equity in your old place to fund your retirement, you could also buy a new property with a good chance of appreciating. But as we saw during the housing bubble, housing prices in retirement destinations can be especially volatile. Having my retirement plans hinge on selling my home and having cash to spare no longer seems like a great idea, but even worse is the prospect of buying a dream retirement home only to see the value tank and my net worth crumble.

4. Retirement is a terrible time to leave your support network. A change of scenery may sound appealing for a lot of people who've spent the last few decades living and working around the same old friends and family. But the physical limitations and medical issues that come with old age seem likely to make people more in need of support from able-bodied friends and family, not less. This fact was underscored for me recently, when my wife's grandmother suffered through some serious medical issues lately. The fact that she has a strong support network hasn't just made taking care of her home and getting to doctor's appointments easier, it's also probably saved her life on a couple of occasions.

5. "It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there." Just because I love visiting a place doesn't mean I'll get the same enjoyment out of it after five or 10 years. If I like a place, I'll consider making an annual vacation of it, rather than trying to live there permanently. That way, if I get sick of it, I can just stop going; no real estate agents, movers or mortgage brokers required.

Maybe by the time I'm up for retirement, I'll feel differently. But If I do end up moving, I'll try to target a small, easy-to-maintain condo in a city with really good public transportation, preferably well north of the Sun Belt. That way, being able to maintain a house or drive a car won't be preconditions for me to be able to live on my own. Sunshine may be sweet, but independent living for as long as possible is sweeter.

Claes Bell has covered banking, autos and a variety of personal finance topics for since 2006. He blogs on autos, banking and CD rates. Contact Claes on twitter, his handle is @claesBell. 

1 comment:

  1. very sound should stick to what you know best, adjusting becomes harder with age


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