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.