Your dream retirement, given these circumstances?
March 9, 2013 9:59 PM   Subscribe

If you were single, 53 and healthy and with an adult child roaming the Earth, where would you retire and why? Only limiting factors are 200K US in a retirement account and a pension of 40K US (with a COLA increase of $1600 each year).
posted by 1066 to Grab Bag (28 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I, personally, would aim for multiple well-below-my-means homesteads in regions and countries where I could gain citizenship, to give myself a variety of options and opportunities. That sounds like an awesome position to be in but you might be around for another fifty years, well long enough for any characteristics you might choose a location for to disappear. Why pick one dream retirement when you can have three or four!
posted by XMLicious at 10:25 PM on March 9, 2013

Only limiting factor

Yeah, I'd include citizenship there. I've met some retirees who spend half the year in their preferred location (Vientiane in this case), and half at home, due to citizenship limitations.
posted by pompomtom at 10:29 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd probably move to a ski town with a summer cabin some place super remote with good surfing where I spent the hot part of the year. What do you like to do though?
posted by fshgrl at 10:35 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I make decisions by adding limiting factors until I've narrowed my options down to a manageable number. Here's a highly incomplete list of factors that might help narrow your options:

Long-term residence. Certain countries make it easier for retirees to live in long-term than others. This might be a good variable to limit to start with.

Food. Do you have a cuisine that you LOVE to eat?

Climate. If you had to, say, go fishing, would you rather go fishing in shorts or fishing in an ice shanty?

Budget. How much do you want to spend? How much do you want to save?

People. What do you want to have in common with your community wherever you end up living?

If all else fails, think up variables and then look at maps of those variables on Wikipedia.
posted by aniola at 10:39 PM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Right where I am, but that's because it's a place I already chose to live for what it had to offer. What do you want to do during your retirement? My home is in a city the size I like which has the amenities and entertainment that interest me and the outdoor leisure/adventure opportunities I seek out in my spare time. Also enough summer to need a/c and enough winter to close schools now & then, with gorgeous autumns. And it's far enough from huge urbania to be affordable, while close enough for roadtrips. But all that is just what I want. Where you would choose depends on what you would want to do with your days and nights when you're retired.
posted by headnsouth at 10:42 PM on March 9, 2013

So when would you retire? Now? And is that pension $40k per annum? After taxes? How much are you eligible to claim in Social Security when you can start to claim that?
posted by yellowcandy at 11:12 PM on March 9, 2013

Response by poster: *Thanks for the answers so far. I'm not so good at coming up with ideas/options on my own. I'm much better at gleaning little pieces of wisdom from others. So I really am interested in what each of you would do in these circumstances. XMLicious and fshgrl are really on the right track. And it's 40k per year, pre-tax, no Social Security.
posted by 1066 at 11:51 PM on March 9, 2013

I'd keep working as a programmer, because there's no reason to stop at 53. I'd try and find a job I could do remotely half the time, or I'd work six months a year and travel the other six months. I'd go and live in random countries for three months at a time, or whatever their tourist visa said I could, and work enough to pay the bills there so my $40k per year could mostly go into the retirement account. I'd make sure I had excellent health insurance, and that I had enough money for whatever in-home care or nursing home care I might eventually need. I'd probably look for long term volunteer opportunities, the kind of thing where they require you to commit for six or 18 months. I'd do things like hiking Macchu Picchu for three months. I'd go live wherever my family was for a month each year, or live where my best friends are.
posted by jacalata at 12:21 AM on March 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

I probably wouldn't do this myself, because I don't like hot climates, but I know many Australians who have retired to Indonesia, where they can basically live like royalty on a pittance. My friend's father has a live-in cook, and a cleaner who comes daily, and he gets his laundry collected, washed, dried, ironed, folded and delivered, including having his bed sheets changed every day. He lives next to the beach in a nicely built house. He reckons this all costs him about a quarter of his previous cost of living in Australia. Apparently medical care there is even quite accessible (including western-trained doctors) and very affordable by our standards. You pay for treatments in cash, but it's like $5 to visit the doctor; less than $20 for an x-ray; most prescription medicines are less than $1 even for western brands we would pay $100 for.
posted by lollusc at 1:08 AM on March 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'm not so good at coming up with ideas/options on my own. I'm much better at gleaning little pieces of wisdom from others. So I really am interested in what each of you would do in these circumstances.

I'm 6 years younger than you and have just begun thinking of the 'settled down' future.

Third world locations sound warm, cheap and wonderful but for me personally I don't think they're going to work - internet access, broadband, bandwidth - these are things which are important to me (in whichever form they'll take in the coming decades). That is also something to consider, especially if you expect to manage your finances or stay in touch via these communication tools.

Its odd but I'd always thought of a place like Finland - only caveat is that you'd have to go there years in advance of retirement in order to establish yourself and qualify for benefits after paying your dues for long enough. I've watched how the senior citizens are taken care of and the facilities available; the high income tax rate seems to be worth the ROI.

Right now, as I begin trying to imagine a less traveled life, I think I'll be looking for a campus of some kind. Teaching seems like a nice retirement plan ;p
posted by infini at 6:31 AM on March 10, 2013

My absolute dream is to have a small farm somewhere semi-remote and with good weather. Think hot summers/mild winters in the south of France or northern California. I'd grow vegetables, herbs, maybe have a couple goats and a dog and a cat, lots of dining and cooking outside. I'd have a room for a floor loom, a cozy reading nook, and a seriously comfortable bed.
posted by Specklet at 6:46 AM on March 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oooh, I am so with you. As I approach 50 I want to pack it in early too, and I've been actively considering the same question and figuring out the resource questions. After what will end up being about 25 years in a big east coast city, I am determined to go (back) west.

So . . . my thoughts:

Have you considered Albuquerque? Much lower cost of living than many comparably cosmopolitan cities, beautiful part of the country with amazing outdoor culture, the best local cuisine (and it's cheap), low taxes, and a great deal of cultural and social diversity. It's a hidden gem and I myself am seriously considering it. It can get cold for a while in winter, and it can get beastly hot in summer, but local culture is adapted to that.

My personal preference list goes: Honolulu (pipe dream, but a boy can dream), Bay Area, Seattle, Portland, and somewhere in the Santa Fe/Albuquerque zone, in descending order of cost of living (not necessarily preference). When I visit it in spring and summer, I sometimes consider Anchorage too (if you want quick access to true wilderness *and* a major airport, decent coffee, a lively arts scene, and can deal with long cold winters, there's a lot to love about Anchorage that you cannot find in the lower 48, but for most people the winter would be a dealbreaker).

To me, aside from the absolute quality of life, geographic location (I will not retire to a place where I cannot see real mountains from downtown, dammit) and cost of living issues, the main questions would be how many friends I have in (or might regularly pass through) any place I retire, easy access to a major airport, local and state political culture, the presence of a university (at least one) that is strong in areas of interest to me, cultural diversity, and the ability to minimize in-town driving (alas, Albuquerque does not past the last test).

On my list, the only place 40K almost makes it as sufficient annual income is Albuquerque. And then you are going to have to deal with very modest housing and a low-cost lifestyle. But with 200K, you could buy something modest or make a serious down payment on something a little better. In most American cities with comparable quality of life, you'd be living on the outskirts in a trailer park on 40K a year.
posted by spitbull at 7:35 AM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Things that are on my checklist-
The ability to catch a train to get to large capital city hospitals.
Reliable rainfall
Good soil
An accessible home with no steps that can easily be converted when the knees/ hips go and you need a wheelchair, with a cellar on the same level
Time to develop a social network/ to make sure you have one in your location of choice
Low humidity
Good solar access
Not in a flood plain/ immediately adjacent to a creek/ cliff/ national park/ pine forest - give me a buffer zone cause when I'm old I don't want to be worried about bush fires or flash flooding.
No earthquakes.
Pension safety net

So in Australia I am considering ballarat bendigo berry (hmm maybe the town needs to start with b too!)
posted by insomniax at 7:44 AM on March 10, 2013

I will also add that for me the one drawback of New Mexico vs. a west coast city like San Fran Bay Area, Portland, or Seattle (or Anchorage, for that matter) is the distance from the coast. If, like me, you equally desire quick access both to real mountains and undeveloped coastline as the highest good, Albuquerque of course comes up just a bit short. Of course, none of those coastal cities has the Chihuahuan desert, either.
posted by spitbull at 7:47 AM on March 10, 2013

Best answer: I'm 52 and live in Mexico in a safe tropical city that's becoming popular for retirees from the US. I'm not retired yet, but here's what I considered as I chose my location:

- Ease of establishing permanent residency
- Cost of housing and medical care
- Quality of medical care
- Availability and stability of internet (I work online)
- Language and local culture
- Cultural events, universities, movies, opportunities to go out
- Happy climate (sunny, warm, and not too dry)
- Type of expat sub-culture

If you haven't traveled a lot in developing nations, you might be surprised by how "developed" they are and at the availability of internet access. Many people in my city have fiber optic with at least 10 MBps service. Recently, I've had good connections in AsunciĆ³n, Paraguay, and a decent-enough connection in Granada, Nicaragua, though I don't recommend Granada as a place to live. When I was there a couple of years ago, the internet speed and availability in Chiang Mai, Thailand, was better than in Australia.

Some lessons I've learned:

- I originally focused on Europe, but it turns out that I prefer the developing world because it's more stimulating -- colors, smells, activity, change, informality, fewer rules in general. I loved Chiang Mai for this and the food, but the language would be difficult and the expat sub-culture seemed unhealthy. I thought I would like Amsterdam and other cities in Europe but they felt emotionally cold and regimented to me.

- I sort of spoke Spanish, so I decided to go to a Spanish-speaking place so I could quickly build a social life with locals as well as expats. It turns out that most expats here speak little Spanish and keep apart from local society, so most of my friends are Mexicans and immigrants from other Latin American countries. I now rarely speak English.

- In many ways, my standard of living is the same here as it was in the US, but my housing and medical costs are far lower. In other ways, my standard of living is higher. For example, I occasionally hire a gardener. I can afford to go to weekly therapy sessions. I can buy my groceries online and have them delivered. I can travel cheaply to exotic locations. When I get old and frail, I can hire someone to take care of me in my home.

Some countries, such as Malaysia, intentionally attract foreign retirees by making the residency process easier, at least for people with some money.

If you research non-US destinations, keep in mind that sites like International Living make their money by selling the dream of living abroad, and some also sell real estate in those countries. You'll get more accurate information from expat discussion boards.
posted by ceiba at 7:52 AM on March 10, 2013 [8 favorites]

Some countries, such as Malaysia, intentionally attract foreign retirees by making the residency process easier, at least for people with some money.

My parents have this. Only this year they chose not to renew. There is always the caveat in some of these attractive locations on the difference in experience between being an orang puteh and a regular old Asian.
posted by infini at 7:59 AM on March 10, 2013

Hawaii Hawaii Hawaii. Somewhere in Oahu, because I've never been to Maui (not yet anyway).
posted by discopolo at 8:04 AM on March 10, 2013

I'd buy a bookshop and live above it. 53 is too young to retire. Figure out what you want to be when you grow up and start making plans to do that.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:12 AM on March 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

Oh yeah, I would love to live somewhere on Oahu-- like Waimanolo. Except that I have already lived in a dream location/vacation spot and learned some lessons from it. The problem with buying into a place like that as a final home is that so much can change, so quickly. If you have tons of money you can deal with it; if you don't, it's a big problem. In my case, it was a bunch of people moving from the suburbs and property taxes shooting up, in addition to the demographic changes that made the place less desirable for me. I'm aware of how "got mine"-ish that sounds. But no way would that place be sustainable to me now for retirement.

My current plan is to stay in Illinois and move to the very end of the northern commuter line from Chicago. Still pretty expensive because of the train line. I see not having to drive as a very big plus in retirement. Another plus would be the availability of part-time work, like in a bookstore or a library. But there's another thing changing. My years of bookstore experience are likely going to mean nothing by that time, and that may affect my choice of location. I do want to work outside the home, pretty much until I can't any more.

But generally, somewhere out in the suburbs of the suburbs, but still within striking distance of a major city.
posted by BibiRose at 8:27 AM on March 10, 2013

We're gonna full time it in an RV and workcamp our way across every State Park (hopefully they'll still have the senior discounts when we retire) and back again, then we'll do it all over again. $40K is plenty enough to live in an RV and we can go nearly anywhere we want and see places we can't see now being tied to the brick & mortar house. We're still deciding on whether or not to keep our house, but that's our dream retirement. And we're gonna do it while we're still young enough to get it done.
posted by patheral at 8:47 AM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

We're planning on Malaysia my Second home program as we have family in KL. They allow you to bring your pension in tax free. Probably not as cheap as Indonesia though.
posted by arcticseal at 9:38 AM on March 10, 2013

Is adult child planning to settle somewhere? I'm a generation too young to comment for myself, but lots of my friends' parents seem to really enjoy being close enough to see their grandkids several times a week.
posted by vytae at 9:53 AM on March 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: What a great way to wake up! Thanks for all of your responses; you've really given me a lot to work with. I'm leaving this open until evening my time, just in case anyone else wants to add their ideas.
posted by 1066 at 11:02 AM on March 10, 2013

For me this is a no-brainer. In your situation, I would retire to Costa Rica, somewhere on the Pacific Coast. It's very expat-friendly, with a low cost of living (by American standards, although expensive by Central American standards), high quality of life, and a very stable government. I'd spend two thirds of the year there and the other third RVing around the US.
posted by deadmessenger at 11:11 AM on March 10, 2013

Seconding Costa Rica. I have an Internet buddy who just turned 60 and he and his wife sold their house in Kentucky and moved to Costa Rica a couple of years ago. Good health care, plenty of American consumer goods at Wal-Mart, very inexpensive lifestyle by our standards, okay infrastructure (including Internet access via satellite). Took them a while to get used to the extremely laid-back attitude of the locals, but now they are enjoying it a lot.
posted by briank at 11:23 AM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Buddy of mine is spending a year in Costa Rica to see if he likes it enough to buy there and settle down. He works offshore so has the time of to explore. The reports so far are all good.
posted by arcticseal at 11:29 AM on March 10, 2013

My current plan is to stay in Illinois and move to the very end of the northern commuter line from Chicago.
Kenosha is in Wisconsin, friend.

If you're looking for city access, $40k is plenty of money to live within easy striking distance of NYC on one of the commuter lines that run frequently all day, perhaps in one of the Hudson Valley towns, and also near mountainous state parks. You'd be unlikely to have a shortage of activities there.

If you want city living, there are plenty of further-out areas in NYC, or even downtown Chicago would be within the range of possibilities-- condos are quite cheap there. Chicago also has major airports that will take you anywhere in the world pretty easily.
posted by akgerber at 11:44 AM on March 11, 2013

I am hoping to be in a similar position in five or six years. Right now my favorite location is Uruguay. It's safe, easy to start a business and get residency and not overrun with gringos like most of the rest of the popular retirement locations.
posted by Gringos Without Borders at 11:52 AM on March 11, 2013

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