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Where to go for a Humble Retirement
August 22, 2009 8:41 AM   Subscribe

In twenty-five years i'll be retiring with my minimal social security benefits and medicare to keep me briefly going. I've got no savings right now, but I'm almost done paying my debts. I rent. I want somewhere tiny, a bungalow with a kitchen, perhaps a tiny garden, stonking bandwidth, maybe near a lake, maybe near a wood, but really not so much. I just want to whittle sticks, greet neighbours, not climb stairs, and hack on code. I don't mind renting again until i die. Where should I move in the US, and when?

(My daughter will be grown up and, touch wood, supporting herself by then. My parents will almost certainly be dead and will have left me a $100,000 or so, I imagine.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Portland, after the economy recovers?
posted by puckish at 8:45 AM on August 22, 2009


Twenty five years is a long time as far as economies and communities go. If you are 45 now (which will qualify you for Social Security at 70 - which I believe is now what is considered "retirement age"), then you've certainly seen the changes that can happen to a culture, economy and communities in that amount of time. What's a wonderful place now, with every component on your list may be a sprawling suburb or Meth (or it's future corollary) heaven by that time. Hell, the climate may even change in ways that we can only imagine. Places that I knew 25 years ago (heck, even 10 years ago) have changed character and focus over the years.

I guess this is a long way of saying that what's good for you now and may look good for you in the future is going to change. Social security is likely going to change (if it's still around then), and the value of $100,000 is certainly going to change (not for the better). Heck, you may not even want to whittle sticks by then, you might want a little condo in a nice city. I can't imagine that this is anything you can decide now.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:29 AM on August 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


When people make these decisions, they have to think about what's important to them. So, one of the reasons many people retire to Florida is a combination of good weather [well, no winter weather] and no state income tax and low property taxes and ease of becoming a resident and an already-existing population of retirees. Arizona has similar benefits.

Then again, we have many people retiring to Vermont [which has almost none of these things] because it's incredibly beautiful and for a lot of people, living someplace that fits their definition of beautiful is more important than saving money on income taxes or what have you.

Depending on how cheaply you want to live, there is also the snowbird option where you have a lovely cabin on a lake in New Hampshire and then you head down to Florida to escape the worst of the winter weather here (November - April) if you don't like that sort of thing.

Personally, I think there's great value to being near to friends and (possibly) family even if you don't see them very much, so you may want to check in and see what your daughter is up to, depending on how the two of you get along. The things you want you can find almost anyplace, so you may want to get a little bit more picky to narrow down your options.
posted by jessamyn at 10:01 AM on August 22, 2009


My parents live in a little paradise in a place they bought for retirement - fabulous view on a lake, a couple of acres, southern clime... it's really amazing. It's incredible how little they paid for it (small but cozy house; two bedrooms; two bathrooms; kitchen/dining room area; living room; sun room; fabulous back porch overlooking the gorgeous lawn leading down to the lake), something like 20 years ago - but what amazes me is that it is an area that remains essentially "undiscovered." The only thing that kept them from buying the plot next door when it recently came up for sale (which would have been nice, just to extend their privacy and safety) is that they didn't feel up to the constant work of maintaining that much more property. And my parents are very careful about spending money. In other words, it was a stone bargain.

The only aspects that I can see keeping this area affordable are: 1) It's about 50 miles from the nearest big city (in a backward state); anyone with a professional career would have a hell of a drive, and that nearest big city, while among the top five in the state, is not at all a notable place (it's not likely you would be at all familiar with it, unless you live in that state) - not like living 50 miles from a really significant cultural/business center; 2) it's "redneck" land; I bet my parents were the only people within 100 miles who voted for Obama, and etc.; 3) because it is somewhat distant from the real estate sharks, they pay less attention (who wants to drive that far, unless it's pretty much a sealed deal?), and values are much slower to become inflated 4) because it's out of the way, you are not going to have 10-minute Police, Fire Department, or ambulance response - it's not a suburb . There's a sleepy little town about 10-15 miles away... but you probably wouldn't want to count on them for extinguishing your house fire in time to save much, for example. (in fact, the place next door came up for sale after the house there burned down - the tenants there were apparently relatively quiet meth-heads, as it turns out. One reason the p. unit thought seriously about buying it - keep any more wack neighbors from moving in. )

I think the average metafilter person, or maybe the average middle to upper class American wouldn't buy there, which is why it remains obtainable - but it's really amazing. My husband refers to my parent's home (and general area) as "the discovery channel." There is fantastic (sometimes outlandishly wonderful) wildlife and flora, and they have a boat with an outboard, a canoe, and a pontoon (for parties!) at the bottom of their impossibly beautiful (now that they've made it so; it was pretty ugly when they bought it) backyard lawn, plus a tidy pier where they can hang out and fish if they don't feel like taking out any of the boats. They indulge their lifelong love of gardening, fishing, hiking/walking, and hanging out in fabulous outdoor places sipping wine and grilling fish and fresh home-grown vegetables. Paradisaical, seriously.

But, like, when somebody did buy the place next door (just for their vacation spot as it turns out), they made a point of immediately introducing themselves by saying they are "Good Christian People" who wouldn't make a lot of noise or cause trouble. In other words, your neighbors might try to proselytize to you. My parents don't mind much, though they are essentially non-religious; I probably would. But they are exceedingly popular in their little spread-out country neighborhood. Obviously, they don't talk religion or politics. Could I see tucking myself away there? Absolutely! It won't happen, ever, because I now live in a different country... and it just won't ever happen that I take up their beautiful spot, but for a relatively solitary / self-sufficient person or couple, it's a bit of paradise.

They bought this place for a laughable amount, at auction, and also went through some rocky moments with it... at one point, they were asked to pay more, for some reason - it wasn't simple. But in the end they prevailed. They had spent about three or four years checking out everything that interested them, and they were very resolute and calm. They had a really attractive, much bigger place in the city with a pool, that was beautifully landscaped (by their own hands), so they didn't need to jump at anything. They wanted to buy a place that was perfect for them, but only a fraction of what they could sell their house for. Many members here might easily have a car that cost $20,000+ more than what my parents paid for their lovely little retirement escape place. They did good.

To emulate that, you would already have to live in the general area (within about a 200-300-mile radius) where you would want to settle down (and better for you if it's not a "trendy" state!), and then you would spend some years checking out every possible place (especially auctions, as well as for-sale-by-owner ads and signs) that might suit. This is for buying, obviously, not renting. But renting changes - you can't count on it. You can probably afford to buy your own excellent retirement spot, if you are a good saver, and spend serious (plus creative) time investigating your options, and you're canny, and super patient, and careful, and determined - and if you just take your own damn time (the superseekrit weapon in almost all sales transactions!).

You could find your own ridiculously good opportunity. It happens. But it especially happens to people who stalk it. :)
posted by taz at 2:58 PM on August 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


taz, why can't you just say where you are talking about?
posted by Lizzle at 5:54 PM on August 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Because then the place would be crawling with filthy, ironic t-shirt wearing, steampunk ukelele playing, papercraft loving hipsters, and the lawn would be the next Burning Man.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:03 PM on August 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


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