The Worst Retirement Advice

Divide oldsters in the U.S. into three parts—1) those who haven’t saved nearly enough money to stop working; 2) those with modest savings who with social security can retire if they live super simply; and 3) those with sufficient savings to stop working and move anywhere they’d like.

Some of the “sufficient savers”, once they stop working, follow “experts'” advice and head south where it’s warm and sunny. I grew up in SoCal and as these pictures from a recent visit to CentralCal attest, I dig nice weather as much as the next guy.

Here’s the problem with that advice—financial “experts” don’t factor social capital into their retirement equations. Given what we’re learning about happiness or “subjective well-being”, it makes no sense to sever longstanding friendships in the interest of better weather.

The counter argument—we’ll make new friends, especially with spare time—doesn’t factor two important things into consideration. Close friendship stems from personal history, a treasure trove of shared experiences over decades, memories and stories that are retold (and embellished) and thereby relived. It’s tough to build up meaningful deposits in those memory banks late in life. Another cost of moving to a Sun Belt retirement community is the loss of mix-aged life and friendships and the vitality that provides.

Some well-to-do “Snow Birds” split the difference and divide their time between two homes. The GalPal and I may someday try out snow birding lite, renting a Golden State condo for a few months in the dead of winter.

However, I can’t see myself relocating altogether. Today I ran around Capital Lake with a close friend who I’ve been running with for 13 years. We’ve logged over ten thousand miles fixing our wives’ and the worlds’ problems. Ran past Sue who cleans my teeth. I thought I might see her at Christmas eve service, but she must have attended a different one. A few minutes later we passed Denny, who always has a smile and Seattle Marathon entry for me. We can’t go to the Farmers Market without seeing someone we know. After moving around most of my life, it’s nice being rooted. To take the social capital we enjoy for granted would be a mistake.

4 thoughts on “The Worst Retirement Advice

  1. I fit in your category 2 Ron but if I did fit the 3rd scheme I would have a summer and winter place. I agree with the social capital aspect of your position on retirement. It’s our human connections that really give meaning to the environs we select.

  2. I fit in category (3) (as you know . . . through circumstances not all of my doing) and recently faced the decision of “where to live.” I could have moved anywhere in the world so Paul and Carol Jean could not understand why I would choose to live in Marion, Ohio rather than somewhere west or south with better weather. Though I was unable to articulate my position as eloquently as you do in your writing, I am not a terribly social creature, but even given that, I explained to them “bad winter weather” was a small price to pay for having a cadre of close friends (AA buddies, golfing buddies, fishing buddies, general hang-out-with-sports-watching buddies, etc.) that had been cultivated and nurtured for over 19 years. They both argued the “you’ll make new friends” angle but at my age I realized, as “lbwoodgate” put it so well above, “(i)t’s our human connections that really give meaning to the environs we select.”

    Brilliant, eye-opening post that makes me appreciate my friends more than ever – thanks!

  3. Omg, Dad. The chili pepper thing again? And since you know I took the pictures of you in the pool, there’s no way you were waiting for me. Just sayin’.

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