By D.B. Tipmore
Cost of living. Quality of life. Tax environment. Climate. We know all about these smart tips for finding the perfect retirement destination. And they are smart. But what if life’s circumstances, unforeseen pandemic effects or plain old shortsightedness force us down another path?
Which describes my situation, living in a little Southern town, far from where I thought I’d be at this age, hours away from that sugar-sand beach and that cute downtown full of wonderful restaurants and those younger relatives there to help in a pinch. So how dare I give advice?
Didn’t your parents always tell you to learn from your mistakes? They were right. So I offer a few tips to guide you as you look for paradise. And please remember: these tips are offered with humility and even fear, conscious that I am only a Google search away from some old-timer who has exhausted the thrill of Pickleball and may want to come after me with some choice adjectives. Or a paddle.
Don’t choose a retirement spot based mainly on weather. There’s a reason the word “change” now appears regularly after “climate”. My little town, once a bastion of the sweetest springs and autumns, is now the newest version of Hurricane Alley in the fall and historically unheard-of cold in the winter.
Another point: endless sunshine can be too much of a good thing. After an amazingly brief period, you find yourself itching for a blizzard.
Beware your love of beachfront property. How many of you have actually lived on or near a beach? And since you’ve had your hip/knee/shoulder surgery? Is the beach really enjoyable now ? Or did basting in suntan lotion and sand somehow lose its appeal about the time your swimsuit began to fit poorly?
Plus, the sun also goes down. Every day. After sunset, a view of the ocean can be much like a view of your spouse’s aging backside: either ominous or dull.
Even if you hate the idea, make a tour of the nearest Walmart in your proposed retirement paradise–if the place has one. (And if it doesn’t, be warned. Walmart does far more market research about its locations than you ever will and knows from where it invests.)
A Walmart walk-through will tell you almost all you need to know about the locals: how they shop, their attitude toward cleanliness, their degree of contentment, hidden issues of class and taste.
And if there’s no self-service checkout, be very afraid. You’ll never get back those hours spent waiting for Uncle Cy to unload his cart.
Everyone always tells you, “Take a trial run or two to your dream location”. In this case, everyone might well be wrong. On my three trial runs to my little town, the locals couldn’t have been more solicitous—or more cunning. I had no idea that, with every portion of banana pudding, they were sizing me up as a potential civic asset–new “meat” for the Historical Preservation Board or church vestry.
But I’m not a complete idiot. I needed only a few months to spot those committees embroiled in endless arguments over when to hold the annual chili cook-off.