Medicare MEGO

Retirement Living Reality Check

In March, Better Home and Gardens Real Estate released a new survey about where baby boomers intend to retire that is getting some media attention. The big surprise, they say, is that the boomer generation does not want to live in Sun City and its equivalents.

Surprise? A zillion surveys over recent years have already told us that and in this one, only 27 percent say they will choose 55-plus retirement communities.

Here are some other highlights:

57 percent will leave the homes they now live in and

72 percent of those will remain in the state where they now live

39 percent want to move to a rural community such as a farm or small town

26 percent are aiming for an urban, metropolitan environment

Survey results on at least one question confirm the baby boomer reputation (deserved or not) for self-centeredness:

”...83 percent – do not expect family to move into their home in the future, indicating that any 'house guests' will be temporary.”

Those guests include both parents and grown children – no granny flats for this generation.

Of those wanting to move to a new home, 69 percent are willing to upgrade or renovate to fit the home to their needs but most of all they want low-maintenance homes. (Who doesn't?)

25 percent intend to buy a second home for retirement.

Really? All of this seems wildly optimistic to me - on the part of the boomer respondents themselves and the real estate industry promoting the survey results to their constituency. Median savings of the boomer generation is about $120,000. That won't go far.

The survey doesn't really tell us anything about boomers overall and here's why: it was conducted with 1000 respondents age 49 to 67 who were self-selected by answering an email inquiry. And, it's designed for people in the real estate industry who want to build and renovate homes for old people.

So we have an impossibly rosy picture of those 77 million boomers living it up in pricey, big-city condos or on rural gentleman farms with leisurely weeks at their second homes at the shore or in the mountains.

What are these folks smoking? 2008 changed everything. Millions of boomers were forced into early retirement or are working at much lower salaries than before the crash or they have lost their homes to foreclosure (illegally or not) or are struggling with underwater mortgages or all of the above. (No one talks about this stuff anymore but it is still real.)

As a Businessweek story noted:

”Boomers lost more than other groups in the stock market and housing bust of 2008, and in the aftermath many also lost their jobs at a critical point in their productive years.”

So I thought that today, we might get some real retirement information from people who have actual experience at it – those of us, usually a bit older than boomers, who have lived through the retirement transition – a lot of whom, even though not boomers, live with the effects of 2008.

A couple things that occur to me:

Except for the wealthy, buying a second home is out of the question.

Every elder fears losing the privilege of driving but it happens and it's good to live in a city, town or neighborhood that is walkable and has good public transportation. Farms do not meet those criteria.

I doubt that as many as in the survey will find it possible to sell their homes in the near future and will need to adjust their attitude about remaining where they are now.

All of us, young people starting out, mid-life earners, boomers facing retirement and those of us already retired - live in a post-2008 world that is not as affluent as this silly survey implies.

It is a much more serious world for the 99 percent now with fewer choices that must be made more carefully than in the past.

What, for you who are already retired, is the reality you would want people soon to retire to know about life in retirement? Did you need to adjust your expectations? If so how? What's working for you and what is not?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sondra Terry: The Giving of a Tallis


Never expect your job to last. A natural disaster took my job, home and former life from me 3 years before I was set to retire. Everything turned upside down and my life is very different today. I live on very little, do not on a home and my future is quite uncertain. But, I try to live in the present moment because, really, it's all we ever have.

For the married ladies, don't get complacent -- you too could become a widow unexpectedly. It happened to me at age 54, husband was 58. We were working on that "retirement dream"...had bought & renovated a small farmhouse/farm. Only lived there 2 years when he died. I sold the farm, fortunately BEFORE the bottom fell out of the housing market. Also fortunately, we'd kept our city house, which is where I am now.

All in all, I'm okay financially. Have some savings, good income from pension/ss...but life is NOT what I'd expected at my age now, 62.

I guess I'd say: Expect the unexpected. And "the best laid plans.."

This exactly the situation we are in. I can't wait to read what others, in similar situations have to say.

We have spent 5 years looking in Georgia and Florida for that 'last' place - our retirement home.

We look at 55+ and then others; like condos. The issue in today's environment is simply safety - then comes the 55+ lifestyle.

As we all now both are a state of mind. And as we are finding out - both are expensive!

Safety usually means a gated community and if you get extravagant a 24/7 gate official. 55+ lifestyle is a clubhouse, swimming pool, exercise area, and all the whistles and bells - like Christmas morning!

We keep finding the 'perfect place' but when we look at the bottom line it is very, very expensive. That perfect $250k home finally ended up costing a whopping $378k with all the extras; including those things we needed. So what do we give up?

Square footage? No

Safety? No.

Lifestyle? Maybe.

To replace the lifestyle we could always join the YMCA, VFW, or sneak into to the Hilton Gardens every now and then.

What have you to say, I say . . .?

I hate to disagree, but overall I think we have it pretty good. Social Security is strong for us ... but who knows about the future. Same with Medicare. Many of us enjoy pensions (I don't), but many of our children will not. The stock market is keeping our 401K and IRAs flush ... at least for now.

Crime is lower than it's been in decades; inflation (which hurts retirees more than anyone else)is lower than it's been in decades. Clearly, we have problems; and a lot of people have been left out. But when you look at the past, you've got to conclude that we have it pretty good. And when you look at the future, you really have to wonder if our children and grandchildren will be so lucky.

Those of us born between the Depression and WW2 have had a lucky go of it. I'm with Tom. My kids will just have to hope that Mom and Dad are able to leave something behind for them. Because a part of our good luck was enhanced by post-depression frugality, and because I've seen what happens when the kids won't listen to good advice, I can only repeat my favorite mantra, "Save Your Money; Don't Get Into Debt". Fat chance in this era of huge college costs, two jobs families, and the lure of expensive toys.

First, I never planned to retire as early as I did (62). I expected to work until I was 65 or older, but a lay-off and the inability to find meaningful work forced me to retire. This left me with a much more limited income that I had planned for and, even with my 401k's, CD's, IRA's, I still did not have enough money to live life the way I had imagined. Therefore, the reality of retirement for me is, No matter how much money you think you will need and out away for your Golden Years, it ain't enough.

BTW Ronni and all, I ran a test on this page to see if it was affected by this new "Heartbleed" malware, and you will be pleased to know that, at least on Chrome, your safe,

My husband and I are doing quite well, largely because we paid off our house about five or six years before we retired and invested in some systems that make it energy efficient.

I have a pension, my husband has investment income and I also have a small freelance business that brings in some income. We plan to stay where we are as long as our health holds out. (Our house is also small and doesn't require a lot of work.)

We live in a big city where there are lots of resources available to us and where there is convenient bus service if we get to the point that we can't drive. I didn't want to live in a suburb or the country earlier because I didn't want a long commute; now I think it would be foolish to live in such a place when I know I probably won't always be able to drive.

Every time someone brings up the selfish baby boomers living in their fantasy worlds, I am puzzled (and a little annoyed). I am a leading edge baby boomer (born 1947). I have always lived frugally, preferring to spend my money on experiences rather than things. Most of the baby boomers I know are similar. Who are these self-absorbed, obnoxious people I keep reading about? Nobody I know.

I think the truth is that there are selfish, obnoxious people in every generation, and I am tired of every ill in society being blamed on the boomers!

I belong to that small in between demographic born during WW2. I "retired" earlier than planned. I sold my house before the real estate crash and bought a smaller home in E. WA. I was lucky enough to find employment here but at 2/3 of my old salary so there was no last five years of increasing salary or increasing of SS.

I worry about outliving my money. I believed it was adequate but now I'm not so sure. The so-called cost of living doesn't reflect the reality of the inflated rise in the costs of housing, food, gas, medicine, and insurance for anyone on a fixed income.

I'm doing okay. I have a car but where I live now I can walk to downtown, the library, a grocery, my doctor's office and the post office. The condo costs are less than my former home. I'm sure they will go up but they would have at the house too.

Both my sons live here very close by. I have the best daughter-in-law in the world and many grandkids. There are also three colleges here providing many events to attend, lots of them free. One of them, Whitman College, is within a few blocks so I can also walk to there. It has lovely grounds, an art gallery, a science building with marvelous displays and many free events of music, art, and visiting writers and other creative people and are open to the public.

We (my husband and I in our late 60's) live walking distance to the goods and services we need now and intend to maintain that in our next (and hopefully last) move. The "walkability index" is the first thing we look at in a home. We have to sell this one first (no two homes for us) and that's taking longer than we hoped. As for 55+ enclaves- no way! Diversity of all kinds and a community to become part of is what we want.

We're in a condo community that is not 55+ so that my neighbors are all different ages, many still work & others babysit grandchildren so they also add to the mix. Also we have adequate savings invested because both of our parents struggled mightily during the depression & we learned much from them.
That's the good news.
Health wise it's a different story. I'm a caregiver & if/when a nursing home or in home care is required we may be strapped. I really wanted to have some money to leave our kids, but that may not happen so I help now when I can. I'm like in the moment as much as I can. Also have seen an elder care attorney x2 & have my ducks lined up. For the most part, I feel secure. Fingers crossed. Dee

I retired from teaching at an early age because my district allowed such retirements with full benefits. My plan had been to take my small teacher pension and get another job, preferably in nonprofit doing good work with good people. No one would hire me. I was told I would be bored. After teaching for 21 years in an inner city school, boring would be fine for a few hours a week.

Fortunately, I had made sure our house and cars were paid off before I retired, and although I don't have as much money as I would like, we are very comfortable.

Most of our friends our age (boomers) are very comfortable and have great retirement incomes or they are still working, doing work they love. They all have large, lovely homes and travel extensively. I think life has been very good for baby boomers, and probably will continue to be so. We may be the last generation that can say that, though.

I think that poll is 'way off-base. Or only the very-rich replied.

We sold our house in 2004 and got twice what we had paid for it. However, that is very misleading, because we had put an awful lot of money and sweat into the house that was never factored into the purchase price.

We moved to a small town in Tennessee where we planned to start a small manufacturing business. Unfortunately my husband had an abdominal aortic aneurysm that ate up a large chunk of our money (we had no health insurance)and so weakened him that he was barely able to get around by himself. So the business was just a pipe dream.

The Depression of 2008 meant that our house here in TN is probably worth less than we paid for it, although it is completely paid for, and it is difficult for us to do the maintenance by ourselves and even more difficult to get professional help in this small town.

We still hope to sell our place here and to move back to the Denver area where our son and daughter live and where the stores and services are closer to where we would live. We would downsize to a much smaller place, one with minimal yard work. Both my husband's and my parents are dead, so we would not have to contend with them living with us.

I resent your constant digs at baby boomers, Ronni, but I try to ignore them. You are so sensible in other matters, but you must have had some bad experiences with baby boomers in the past that have soured you on us. We are just people and I doubt we are any more self-centered than any other generation.

If my husband and I were to participate in a poll like the one you cite, we'd have to say that we're much poorer than we would have anticipated, although we could never have had a second home even in our wildest dreams!

I'm with the other Diane above.....all we do have is the present moment...My husband had an escalation in his Parkinson's and has been in the nursing home since last January (2013). I got severanced out of my job in March (2013)....My money situation is dire...I have someone that will buy my home, but I don't know where I am going to go...I am working from 10 PM until 4AM at home transcribing to try and make ends meet...I am 72 years old, post doctoral in education in grieving, bereavement, gerontology and chemistry and I can't find a job that will interface with my experience...let alone even begin to help myself with the losses of the last year.... I live in an over 55 community now and I find it a lot like high school...lots of gossip and very little support when things fall is as if bad luck is contagious..A retirement community will definitely not be my choice for housing in the future....We have seven children and they all have offered to help me figure out my next step...and while I appreciate their input...I have to make this decision on my own at this time. I have warned all our children to be sure and have their future secured financially...This is not a good age to be living hand to mouth....

I have enjoyed and appreciated these testimonials immensely. I should be retired by summer and will draw upon Ronni's blog as well as these comments. Some are on relative easy street while others truly struggle, and that's life and the luck of the draw, I think. In the end, life passes as we all do with it, and we must all find meaning in wherever we are and how we are. Good luck to all of you that precede me. My main goal, personally, is to make and keep my wife happy above all other goals and I'll be fine, hoping that I just don't drop dead, suddenly, like many men often do.

Joe (67) and I (66) are pretty well off financially. We have always been frugal and saved in 403b accounts for retirement. We live on 4 beautiful acres which may be a problem in the future but right now it is heaven. Physically, Joe is in good shape but I have a neuromuscular condition that I just have to work around. So far I am very happy in retirement. Things may change but I am savoring these days.

4 and a half years into my second marriage, this 1946 boomer is in a totally different financial situation than I was in my first 26 year marriage.

We are cash-poor but property-rich. Dave is still working as an electrical contractor and we both have SS, Medicare and I have a small pension. Rental income kept us solvent during the recession, when construction slowed in Arizona. This week we will put one of our houses up for sale, then decide what to do with the profits.

In my previous marriage, I thought my attorney-husband would be able to support us and so I quit teaching with our first child. Two bankruptcies and years of lean living later, I was back teaching and divorced. At times we did not even have health insurance or money for food.

I so appreciate being able to pay our bills now, be generous to charities and kids, and to not worry.

In looking back, I realize that my ex's difficult personality made it hard for him to keep a job and that his poor choices made it hard for our family. At the time, I did not blame him but now I realize better what happened.

I live a very small life and like it that way. Fewer needs and frugal tastes. Just easier and cheaper.

A lot of luck, too. Seems to me so much of life is just pure luck.

We need to re-think our whole way of life, I think. Seems now to be based on constant growth. Quality of life...for everyone...gets lost in the shuffle.


Make good choices throughout life-

(save, invest, have goals, keep up to date on economy and investing by reading about it)

and pray for a lot of luck.

LUCK that is what we have - we are 71 and 74 - our house has a reverse mortgage with nothing left for use...we are 2 years behind in our real estate taxes but we are here in the moment and plan on staying here because our house does fill our needs and we can hope we won't lose it because of the taxes. LUCK.....well???????

I think that Victoria said it pretty well--make good choices along the way. We moved into our house 20 years ago, and even then in the back of my mind I thought ahead to retirement and what would be within walking distance. Although we are not yet at the point where we can no longer drive, we have no longing to live elsewhere. Nor did we need to adjust our expectations. Extra payments and refinancing along the way allowed us to pay off the mortgage a few months ago. This might not work for everyone, but it is one example of how to find "home" in retirement.

"Every elder fears losing the privilege of driving but it happens and it's good to live in a city, town or neighborhood that is walkable and has good public transportation. Farms do not meet those criteria."
Two years ago I realized that my eyesight was not going to pass the driving test they give 80 yrs olds, so I gave up my car to a family member. I spent 4 months riding on the city buses to see where they all went, the ones I would need to reach doctors, dentists, favorite stores. It was rather fun, and now that I've been two years using the public system, find it feels natural thing to do.
Had I lived in the suburbs instead of a nice quiet neighborhood one mile from city green, I would have been having to rely on family or friends and I like my independence far too much for that to become a habit.
Sometimes, people don't think that they will ever lose their right to drive or are willing to face up to the fact that they really have bcome bad drivers, and living in the sticks can become a problem.

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