Homeward Bound

Last week, as part of my post on retirement lessons, I wrote about choosing where you will live. I didn’t choose my place for retirement as much as stumbled across it as a result of a job transfer Martin took nearly twenty years ago. My friends won’t like me saying this. Some of them even tell me, “Shush. Stop talking about how great Greenville is. We have enough retirees here now.” For me Greenville, South Carolina is a great place to retire. However, not everyone wants to retire to Greenville or anyplace else than where they are at the moment. If you do decide to move, here are a few considerations.

There are all kinds of reasons we choose to move when we retire. According to the US Census, most people move to be closer to family and grandchildren. While we love our families, pinning our retirement location on their location should include both discussion with our family and thought about our needs and wants and their needs and wants. Even then, life has a way of changing the best laid plans.

I met one couple who moved to Greenville to be near their son and daughter-in-law and their two children. Imagine the couple’s surprise after moving hundreds of miles, buying a house and settling into their new surroundings only to have their son accept a promotion that moved his family to Dallas. Ouch! No, they didn’t follow them. Instead they decided to stay here and take an occasional two hour flight to visit them in Dallas.

Conversely, some retirees choose to stay put because of family, only to have the grandchildren grow up and spread themselves in the direction of the four winds. The reality is we live in a transient society, children become adults and create their careers and lives, often moving to where opportunity takes them.

The weather also seems to be a top draw. But, choosing a climate so far removed from what you lived in most of your life may not be a sound idea. I’ve met scads of people who retired from northern or mid-western towns to Florida, only to sell and move to the Carolinas. Locals call them half-backs as this is about halfway between northern states like Connecticut and Florida.

One transplant from the Bronx quipped about his back tracking, “There was something not quite right about sitting around the pool on Christmas Day in your swim trunks.” For native Floridians there is probably something not quite right about trudging through snow on Christmas Day. My point is before you choose to move to the extreme opposite of what you are used to, think about what you will miss about your native climate, scenery and customs. While I don’t miss the frigid January temperatures, I would miss the changing colors of autumn leaves, the cooler dryer air and an evening by the fireplace.

As I mentioned last week, good close by medical care is a must for me. I’m in good health. However, if a heart attack or accident occurs, I don’t want to be out of range of a hospital or ambulance service. I’m tough, but not that tough. Sue of Life Below Zero is definitely more of a risk taker than I am. Hats off to her. Me? I’ll live bolder in more conventional ways. I recommend scoping out the medical care and proximity in your new destination before you make the move.

One of my retirement mantras is never stop learning. While having a college or university nearby is important as part of my cultural experience, so is a convenient grocery store and farmers market for my cooking at home obsession and farm store and nursery for my gardening habit. Although I live in the country all of these amenities are only minutes from my house along with locally owned restaurants and trendy shops. Also consider your partner’s needs, if you have one. Martin can bicycle right out of our property onto roads with little traffic and fabulous scenery.

Additionally, before making a move, look at housing affordability, taxes on property, income, sales and vehicles including boats or RVs. Some states do not tax food; others do. Some states do not tax social security; others do. Consider the cost of your move including the cost of moving household goods, getting new registrations on vehicles, a new license and anything else your new locale may require. Consider, too, the emotional cost of finding your way around, locating a new doctor, insurance company and other services, registering to vote, making new friends, creating a new social and cultural life.

While many retirees move, the truth is most do not, preferring to stay in their climate with the friends, family, services  and activities familiar to them. If you do decide a move is right for you, think of all the implications before making the leap. Otherwise, you may not be homeward bound.

20 comments on “Homeward Bound

  1. We almost moved in our retirement. Hubs, who is an architect, designed the perfect home for us, and we purchased land on which to build it. (I mean, what’s the point in marrying a perfectly good architect if you don’t USE them once in your life, right?) And then we came to our senses – Did we really want to start all over again? We would never have a mature tree on that new land! We scrapped the plans, sold the land, and decided that we’d prefer to collect more experiences instead. We could buy a lot of plane tickets for the cost of that new home. And we started the retirement remodel. Making this house function exactly as we would like it…(again, with the architect thing!) We just returned from a voyage, and it was truly good to be “Homeward Bound!” ~ Lynn

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  2. Interesting! I didn’t know anything about Greenville, SC, other than its name. Glad you found it and like it there. I too like “Life Below Zero” and marvel at Sue’s tenacity and resilience.


  3. We’ve lived in the same home in the Philadelphia suburbs since 1979! The house is a cape cod,so our bedroom is on the first floor, which is a must for my husband. Importantly for me, I can walk to our lively town center with many restaurants, a Trader Joe’s and other stores I use frequently. So already I know, if we ever do move, we want one floor and walkabiity. The only reason I would move would be to be no more than a 2-3 hour trip to grandchildren. But, as you point out, children can move and both of mine have already done so many times. Out first grandchild is expected in May (if all goes well). At the moment they are in Philadelphia !!!!! Hooray and hope they stay there…..but I’m not counting on it.


  4. I like that proximity to a university was one of your criteria. In one go, you get learning, inspiration, a framework for your week (if you are a regular user), exercise (on your bike), and a social life. Not bad!


  5. Great points. One that parents don’t consider is that children strike out on their own sometimes because they don’t want their parents so close by.


  6. We’d lived in Minnesota for most of our adult lives but couldn’t imagine spending our golden years in The Land of 10,000 Frozen Lakes. A few days in Taos, New Mexico in 2003 was all it took to convince us that this was our ideal retirement locale. We bought a vacation home here in 2004 and moved to Taos permanently two years ago when my husband retired. We had all those years in between to make friends and become comfortable in the small town environment, so the Big Move was more like a homecoming for us. Our son told us recently that our decision to leave Minnesota freed him to move to California with his wife without feeling guilty for abandoning us. A win-win for all concerned!


  7. Hi, Kathy – My husband and I moved in retirement, using much of the criteria that you have listed above. But some of the ‘criteria’ we just assumed existed (e.g. full medical facility) instead of checking this out more thoroughly. Although we love our new town, I greatly encourage others to use your criteria and check it out carefully in order to eliminate any avoidable surprises.


  8. Kathy – a great summary of things to think about! Hubby really wants to move permanently to Florida but I worry about missing the changing seasons and my network of friends/social life. Our compromise, for now, is downsizing here and spending more time there. I have not ruled out a full-time move, just said “not yet”. The part time there will definitely help with creating the social connections… and the early winter this year (with no fall weather at all) has made me wonder if climate change will erode my seasons anyway. Who knows, maybe in 2-3 years we will flip the “here-there” language in talking about our home base… I have 2 friends who flipped and are now in Florida more than Ohio!


  9. I’m behind! I agree with you so much here. David’s sister and husband moved 2500 miles from California to Greenville to be close to their son. Would only go to his church. Didn’t try any others. Now the son bought property and built a house, so they bought the property next door and are building a house even though current house is 10 min away. The want to be right next door so grandkids can pop in. Son has agreed not to take promotion if it means relocating. We think this is all weird. Our girls both live in Wash D.C. area and no way would we follow them there. Esp since one son-in-law is military..

    On Oct 29, 2017 10:23 AM, “Kathy’s Retirement Blog” wrote:

    > Kathy Merlino posted: “Last week, as part of my post on retirement > lessons, I wrote about choosing where you will live. I didn’t choose my > place for retirement as much as stumbled across it as a result of a job > transfer Martin took nearly twenty years ago. My friends won’t like” >


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