Where to Retire and When

The following article was written by Bill Critch as part of a discussion on Australian's Abroad message board.[ed]

What do you (and you spouse/partner) do every day if you're not working? Play golf? Swim? Look out the window? Cook? Shop? Play with your SO (Significant Other.) Clean out the garage, build an extra room? That's what you'll do when you first retire. And pretty soon if that's all you do, you'll be bored to tears.

If you have an enquiring mind, you will get sick of daily golf (and footy, and swimming etc.) So what stays with you as you age? Love of profession? If you enjoyed it as I did, quite probably. Pursuing related or new intellectual interests by going back to study in depth those things you passed up in your youth. Having a daily routine and being around, or corresponding with people of similar values and interests; having the time to do those things you rushed over when you had a full time job. And boring though it may sound, just like a job, it's the flywheel of your existence. The spice is seeing new stuff - places and experiences but returning to the 'flywheel' after you've dined on the richer food of new pleasures.

So where's that. What place? Different places for different faces. Kate would probably say NY City, Phil would stay on his boat, and Smiffy? Nagasaki or Hobart. It centers around resources: financial, health, and the community you choose.

Financial and physical resources are critical - gotta have enough capital to ensure that you won't be looking for a new job at age 60+. These jobs may be fun, but they don't pay worth a crap. So, ensure the payoff from your employer is in cash, not a 'guaranteed' monthly stipend. Companies go broke overnight - just ask my mates at Delta, Northwest or United Airlines. In the USA, you can roll this tax-sheltered money into another tax sheltered vehicle but don't rush to invest it in something new to your experience and fer Chrissakes, don't employ a broker - they have only their own interests at heart. It's taken me 12 years to figure out how to safely invest for a steady supplemental income which will grow with inflation and not be destroyed by a falling US dollar. Hopefully if you've contributed to Social Security in the USA, you'll get something, but.....maybe not!

Smiffy can understand the principle of a 2nd alternate - when flying in 'weather' conditions and anticipating an instrument approach at your destination, you have in mind an alternate airport in case the original destination is below the minimum weather conditions for a safe landing. If you aren't totally sure that the 1st. alternate will be 'above minimums' you pick a 2nd. alternate. En route, you constantly check the weather for all three unless it's CAFB (Clear As a Friggin' Bell) at destination.

Boomers, don't count on Uncle Sugar giving you a livable retirement, IMHO I think this country's headed to bankruptcy just like the 'solid' airlines of my youth. So be sure to save as much as you can even if it means lowering your standard of living during your working years. That's your 1st Alternate.

Your 2nd. alternate is to retain your skills and keep a part-time time preferably in your field of expertise.

Physical Resources. Stay healthy - both yourself and your SO. If one of you goes crook, the other will become the caregiver and this will dictate where you live. In the USA health care is pretty good IF you have Medicare. If not, you better have lots of money. In OZ, I'm not so sure. My friends travel many klicks to get medical care which is the equal of that available in any decent sized town in the USA. I have checked into retiring in OZ and the insurance thing is much cheaper than the USA and your US Social Security is NOT taxable. Your IRA appreciation is taxable, however.

I'm not saying not to 'give it a go' and anchor yourself to a hospital but a calculated risk is just that - ya gotta calculate the risk! Also, if one of you dies prematurely, where will the other go? Many females are not as anxious to live in the bush as their male partner. So, they have to pull up sticks and re-enter a community.

And that's the last leg of the triad. Community. Not too important for us independent souls? Wrong, the older you get, the more you need it. I live in a retirement community which from time to time drives Bunny and me crazy with all the oldies. But d'ya know something? We do help each other and with families spread all over the world, you gotta have friends nearby.

So, that's my put and of course my kids wouldn't listen to any of it. But you're not my kids and perhaps it's easier to listen to an old man who's not yours.

Bill Critch