Friday, July 25, 2008

Moving to the Country

The folks at Gather Little by Little have pulled up stakes and moved to the North Carolina mountains--20 minutes to the nearest interstate, 30 minutes to the nearest town and 15 minutes to the nearest gas station/store. They are not retiring, but planning to work remotely.

I, of course, am more interested in moving as part of a retirement plan.

Many of the books I've read on financially managing retirement have suggested leaving cities and populous states for more remote (and therefore, cheaper) areas.

It is an idea worth considering.

However, for the potential retiree, there are other considerations. A friend of mine and her 72 year old companion of the past thirty years, took a roadtrip last spring, checking out various locations. They were particularly taken with property in West Virginia.

But--there's ALWAYS a but, isn't there?

Like me, her companion has diabetes. The disease has been without complications so far, but the longer he lives, the more likely it is that her companion will face heart, vision, and circulation issues. Therefore, it is important to them to have a medical center within reasonable driving distance. Also like me, as my friend has aged, cultural activities, theatre and books have become more important. Ideally, they would like to live near a four-year college or university. And finally, they want friends, friends with interests in common with them. Whether a small town or living in the country can provide such friends depends a great deal upon the particular area they settle into.

Those are the big issues, but smaller ones exist as well. There is a 15 year age difference between my friend and her companion, so the assumption is she will always be able to drive in the event he is someday unable to do so. But who knows. As any of us age, the chances that we will come to depend upon others or public transportation to get us where we want to go, increase.

My friend and I grew up together in a town of less than 2000 people. She left at age 18 and never looked back. She now reflects upon small towns with affection. I, on the other hand, came back to that small town after graduate school. I lived and worked there for many years before moving to the big city 18 years ago. I was glad to leave, and the idea of going back, even with cheaper housing (in my case, really cheap since I still own a paid-for house in that town!), isn't all that appealing. Neither is moving to any other small town.

The truth is, 18 years in the city has made a happy urban dweller out of me. Having great public transportation relieves me of concern that there will come a time when I shouldn't be driving. I have libraries, stores, theatre and movies all within ten minutes of my home. There is a four year college in my neighborhood, and several others in the metro area including a major university.

For me at least, I'm thinking it unlikely that I will be willing to save the money I undoubtedly could save by moving away from the city. Guess I'll have to find other ways to cut costs during retirement.


Shevy said...

Well, this is actually our plan. We've already bought a manufactured home just outside the town I spent my first decade in and we're actively looking for land in the vicinity.

Our ultimate goal is to plant lavender and grapes and open a small kosher winery.

We don't have a lot of money saved for retirement and we have a 5 year old (in addition to my 3 grown kids from my 1st marriage) so we're unlike most others of our age in that we'll be paying for school, etc. for years to come.

Our money will eventually come from a variety of sources: a small annuity, Canada Pension, Old Age Pension, RRSPs and income from the lavender and wine (we hope!).

I'm looking at the possibility of investing in dividend-paying stocks because here in Canada my hubby & I could earn up to $99k per year in dividend income without triggering more than a very minimal amount of income tax. Not that we'll ever have the kind of money from dividends (just think how much you'd have to invest in stocks to have that coming in) but if we had $10,000 in dividend income that would be like having almost $25,000 in regular income.

And the bottom line is that our worst case scenario is already taken care of. We have a fully paid for house and car and any time more than 4 years in the future could pick up and move there literally overnight. Our location is a 4 hour drive from the Big City, and 20 minutes from the town I grew up in (a town with a good regional hospital and an international airport).

Rhea said...

I love city living, too, but being in Boston, I can't stand the winters anymore. Check out a book called "Nextville." It is for people approaching retirement and wondering where to go. It has about 100 different places -- city and country -- that are great to retire to. It's great for getting new ideas.

Grace. said...

Shevy, for a family that WANTS country living, your plan sounds ideal. Like you, I extended my parenting well into my '50's (my youngest just turned 18) and that does have a cost when it comes to funding retirement. About the winery idea--I have two friends who own wineries. They both love the experience, but I notice that each of the couples have one partner working full-time outside the industry.

Rhea--I'll look for that book.

Anonymous said...

I love the fact that urban areas offer great transportation and cultural amenities close by and that, i've increasingly come to realize, is the biggest drawback of suburban life.

However, i could never live in a city as i dislike crowds, congestion, traffic and noise.

Living Almost Large said...

Small towns are nice and cheap. But medical care is unfortunately not going to happen. My aunt has MS and has to fly to see a specialist because there are none nearby.