Idyllic, comfortable, plastic … maybe not
Retirement. It is a word that strikes fear in some and rapture in others. Many of us never plan or only begin to plan decades after we should. Ah, to be 25 again and know what I know now.
Speaking to a retirement adviser recently, I learned of the risks of retirement planning. Of course there is the risk of working hard to build a solid retirement plan and then you die early and don’t have the opportunity to reap your rewards. The risk I hadn’t considered was the risk of outliving your savings. And now that I’m heading to the age of 63, I’m a bit behind. None of us truly understands our expiration date, making your retirement plans a true crapshoot.
I think to myself, “Should I scrimp and save madly over the next four or five years at the cost of indulging myself now? And if I do, what if my life ends in six years?” My family history and my current health would indicate that I have a fair chance of happily being on this earth for the next 25 to 30 years or more. But you never know.
And where is the ideal place to retire? Unlike most people, I’ve lived in 15 locations in seven states from New Jersey to California over the last 31 years. I’m flexible and have no real roots. I’ve proven to be adaptable, and I could retire anywhere that strikes my fancy within my financial boundaries.
Earlier this month I visited my daughter Sara in Boynton Beach, Florida, with a secondary goal of checking out retirement opportunities. The planning was exciting. Florida is one of those destination people flock to like birds for retirement.
There is a wonderful, large, self-contained retirement area, The Villages, that I visited with the hope of falling in love with the community. They have a population of 50,000 and get around on golf carts. There is live music in each of their four village squares daily and a great golf course. I don’t play golf, although there are so many activities that old folks would enjoy.
Heck, they have their own daily newspaper to serve the community. I could peddle ads well into retirement. Working in the newspaper business is a highlight of my daily life.
As soon as I got off of the plane in Fort Lauderdale, I was hit with temperatures in the mid-80s and humidity at 60 percent, and it was only March 4. I can deal with heat and I can deal with humidity, but the combination would be a challenge. But as we age we are supposed to enjoy the warmth. Right?
I saved the trip to The Villages until the end of the visit. It was about a three-hour drive on Florida’s expensive toll roads to get there. “Would I want to do that drive three hours at the age of 75 to visit my daughter and her family?” I thought to myself.
People were smiling and having fun all over The Villages. They had many very nice restaurants and the atmosphere was idyllic, if a bit plastic. “It would be comfortable,” I thought to myself. Since it is a place for active retirees there were so many, well, older people — and little diversity.
As I boarded the plane to come home I had a feeling of disappointment. I had so much fun spending a week with my daughter and her family and at the same time I was so anxious to leave Florida.
As my jet made its way to the Eagle airport I had butterflies as I viewed the snow-covered mountains below. As I drove to my Glenwood Springs home I realized how much I love living in this community. And I also realized how much I truly enjoy my job.
Then I thought to myself, “Just because I’m in my 60s or even 70s or 80s, do I really need to retire just because of a milestone number?” I don’t think so.
Michael Bennett is publisher of the Post Independent.
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