Sunday, April 19, 2015

Planning to Be Retired - Part Deux - Where to Live Lists

Should I stay or should I go?

Another Thing you may or may not know exists is lists about good & bad places to live when you are retired. Of course the world is full of lists of all kinds; I guess we love to read them, so why not? I read them all the time. None of them ever prove to be really helpful, I must say, but still I can't help but click on the latest list by someone about something. They are good, clean entertainment.....and food for conversation or blog posts.

Yesterday I read one that got me angry. I found it on the Huffington Post, and the headline was so provocative - The 10 Absolute Worst States to Retire In. Like a lot of Huff Post stories, this was really an introduction to another story from somewhere else, in this case a list by Kiplinger who, a little more charitably, called the list simply "The Worst States for Retirement".

What made me angry at first was the fact that Utah was listed as number 9 on the list. Utah? An ABSOLUTE WORST place to live in as an elder? Utah usually makes lists of BEST places for this or that. And, as it turns out, it's really high on my list of places to stay in. What gives?

The other states on the list were: Texas, Oregon, Nebraska, North Carolina, Minnesota, New York, New Mexico, California and Washington DC. My first impression is that there is a lot to like in most of those places. I can even see that there are a couple of places in Texas that might not be half bad (except for the fact that they are surrounded by Texas. On the other hand, I have good friends who love Texas. And most actual Texans that I have ever met wax lyrical about the place. And it can't have a couple of the biggest cities in the whole country inside it for no good reason.)

I used to live in Minnesota,
and if I had never left, I would probably still be there.
But the winters are terrible
no matter what the other charms of the place are.
But, like all these kinds of things, you have to look at the criteria that went into determining the rankings. In this case it was some things that maybe you care about and maybe you don't. The authors were up front in saying they excluded weather because, they said, most people do prefer a four seasons climate as compared to sunny all the time. OK, fine. We'll not talk about weather. If they HAD considered weather, then I can see why Minnesota would make the list, but I should think that North Dakota would have been number one (Just my opinion, mind you. I tell people that one of the big differences between North & South Dakota is that in NoDak everyone has a block heater on their vehicle and uses it, while in SoDak they are non-existent. And really, when has Fargo ever been a retirement mecca?)

The criteria were all pretty objective - based on easily found out actual numbers about stuff. One of the biggest criteria was taxes. All right, taxes can be important. It is my intention to make my home in South Dakota my 100% legal year round residence. ONE of the reasons for this is because we do have comparatively low taxes.

We got low taxes in South Dakota. I won't talk about the state of the schools.
This shows up pretty commonly on these kinds of lists - lots of list makers say you should consider South Dakota in retirement because of the tax situation there. But I don't think these lists have really made a difference for most people. South Dakota still has one of the tiniest populations in the country and is likely to stay that way for a long time, in spite of all the charms of Sioux Falls. (At least until global climate change makes refugees out of the entire population that lives close to one or another of our coastlines, but that's a different story.)

HOWEVER, I happen to already love South Dakota AND I already have a home there, AND I have lived there a long time now. I'm not MOVING TO SoDak out of the blue just because of the taxes. I am DECIDING TO STAY there. I would stay even if the taxes were the worst in the nation.

Crime rates was another factor. That's pretty much why New Mexico made the list, but not Arizona next door. But, you know, if I should move, I'm going to be careful about selecting a town and a neighborhood in which I feel safe and call it good. Crime is everywhere, but no ENTIRE STATE is a place where residents live in fear of their neighbors. Word would have gotten out about that.

So next we get at overall cost of living. No surprise there that California, New York and Washington DC ranked high there. That kind of revelation is just "duh". It's expensive to live in Manhattan! Who knew? San Francisco too! Wow! Better cross those places off my list. And of course, when you AVERAGE a whole state and part of that state happens to be the biggest city in the country and one of the biggest cities in the whole world......well of course it's way above average.

However, I would imagine that any sensible retiree on an ordinary fixed income does not yearn for the lights of Broadway all that much. If they really, really, really do want that, they will do what needs to be done to make the dream come true. And those who are already there, already know how to make it work on whatever their income is. Living in Manhattan is all about love, and love trumps a heck of a lot including the average cost of living.

I DO experience "California Dreamin'"
Another factor that went into making the list was rates of poverty among elders.  That was the downfall of Texas. But, guess what? Poverty is not a communicable disease. Isn't it in the Bible someplace that there are poor people everywhere, in every time? Another big duh. Those that already poor at the start of retirement are probably not contemplating a move based upon factors like on the list. My guess it that the poor in California are not really contemplating moves to, say, Alabama or someplace because they will have a lot of new neighbors in their tax bracket. I would imagine they are just trying to figure out how to make California work for them.

And then there is Utah's biggest flaw - the percentage of older people. Yeah, it's true. Utah has the biggest number of folks under 25 in the whole country, and we also have the fewest single older adults. Care to take a guess why? In case you haven't figured it out, it just happens to have something to do with the predominate faith of most of my neighbors. Is that news? And does it matter? There's a CULTURE here, folks, that is a bit unique. The culture results in the numbers. Looking at the numbers first is the wrong viewpoint.
We got Mormons in Utah. Wanna make something of it?
The cities of Provo - Orem often show up on lists of GOOD places for elders to live because it turns out that those communities actually do things to care about their elders. Did you know that those cities happen to have something like 98% membership in the predominant faith community? Turns out they take care of their own, and probably the few outsiders get included too because, hey, there are hardly any of them so might as well bring them along.

Being in a minority is not a bad thing. Why would one think it is? I always heard that, like the weather, it turns out most older folks do not want to live in an elderly persons ghetto. We want multi-generations along with four seasons. And how many of us singles are REALLY still looking for a mate? None that I know of, including and especially me.

In the end, I decided there are criteria, and there are criteria. This is one collection of numbers that might mean something or might not. I'm feeling a lot of parallels here in between the debate within social sciences about qualitative and quantitative methods as being the way to create knowledge.

It IS my home state, but sorry.
Illinois does NOT make my cut these days.
We can talk more about this some other time.
I'm guessing that when it comes to deciding where to live in retirement, qualitative factors are far more important than quantitative ones. I know MY list of criteria includes stuff like what are places that I know I like a lot already, what are the politics like, what kind of opportunities will I have to do the stuff I want to do, how hard will it be to make new friends?  I gotta add in a few things that are countable, but it's not the numbers that are important, like how many of my present friends or relatives already live there, have I lived there before and how far do you have to drive to get to other places that are important for me? And it happens I DO care about the weather.

Colorado, on the other hand.....

No comments:

Post a Comment