March 7, 2013 by Jean
Because where people live is often constrained by where they work, retirement can open up the possibility of relocating.
One survey of baby boomers by Del Webb found that about one-third planned to move to a new home in retirement, and that number was higher (42%) among younger baby boomers. Of those who planned to move, about half imagined moving to another state and about one-fourth to another community in the state where they currently live.
Why move? There are many reasons. Some people dream of moving to a beautiful place that they associate with relaxation and the good life. Others want a milder climate or more cultural amenities. Still others want to move closer to children and grandchildren. Some who don’t plan to move across national, state, or municipal lines do plan to relocate from a child-friendly neighborhood to a retirement community or to downsize to less expensive or lower maintenance housing. Retirement planning seminars often focus on cost of living and on the tax advantages and disadvantages of various locations. An AARP list of 9 Questions to Ask Before You Relocate focuses on cost of living, taxes, climate, availability of part-time jobs, access to health care, and closeness to family. A US News and World Report webpage on Best Places to Retire divides its listings into categories like “Best Places to Retire for Under $40,000,” “The 10 Sunniest Places to Retire,” and “10 Best Places for Single Seniors to Retire.”
I am one of those people who plans to relocate when I retire – but with a twist. I am planning to move to a house that I bought more than 20 years ago and that I have been living in part-time in the years since.
In my early thirties, I moved to Maine for a new job and immediately fell in love with the place. The job didn’t work out for the long run, and seven years later I moved to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for a dream job. But by the end of one year in Gettysburg, I realized that I needed to keep my connection to friends in Maine and to the Maine landscape; so I decided to buy a house there. In the spring of 1990, I made a quick trip up to Maine, looked at eleven houses in three days, and made a successful offer on one of them before the week was over. In the years since, I have shuttled back and forth between Pennsylvania and Maine (a distance of about 600 miles), living in a rented townhouse in Gettysburg when school is in session and “going home” to Maine whenever school is out. In the early years, I made the round-trip drive four times a year (sometimes just for a long weekend!). As I got older, however, I budgeted money for plane fares and rental cars, allowing me to get up to Maine more often while only making the round-trip drive twice a year (for summer and our month-long Christmas break).
When I bought my little 4-room, 900-square-foot house, I didn’t intend it to be a “forever home.” I saw it as a good choice for a part-time home – a well-built, low-maintenance house in a quiet wooded location at the end of a dirt road that I could use as a home base in summer and where I could relax and write. But, over the years, as I added a deck onto the house and created a garden (for more about this, see my garden blog, Jean’s Garden), I became more and more attached to the property and it became my “forever home.” Thus my retirement plan to move home to live full-time in a house that I have already been living in for more than twenty years.
But there are complications. During the past 20 years, my little house in the woods has gotten quite filled up with my belongings. But I also have half a lifetime of “stuff” in another house in Pennsylvania and in my office there (including many, many bookcases full of books). How much of this will I shed when I retire and how much should I take with me? How much of the inexpensive furniture that I bought for my Maine house in 1990 will I keep and what will I replace with the often-better furniture from my Gettysburg life?
Even if I get rid of quite a lot, however, my Maine house is not large enough to accommodate the rest. So I have been saving money to build an addition, a new master bedroom and bath. This will allow me to add storage space, to turn the current bedroom into a study (with lots of floor-to-ceiling book shelves!), and to turn my current study into a combination guest room and sewing room.
I have been thinking about all these changes to my living circumstances for more than five years; the challenge now is to bring them all to fruition in the year to come.