Sunday, September 30, 2012

International Travel Warnings and Alerts

Years ago, in the early 1980’s, my husband and I took our children and a teenage babysitter to Jamaica on vacation.  We stayed at a luxurious hotel with a spacious, open-air entry that was undergoing extensive repairs when we arrived. Marble tiles were being removed and replaced throughout the lobby.

After asking several employees about the repairs, one bell boy finally admitted to us that an anti-government revolutionary group had come into the hotel the week before and shot a number of people in the lobby.  Needless to say, this put a real damper on our vacation!  In those days, before the internet, it was not easy to get travel advisories before taking a vacation, so we knew nothing about the political unrest until we arrived.

A few years prior to that frightening trip to Jamaica, we took a trip to Cancun, Mexico, and arrived just as a hurricane was passing by.  Although this trip was only marginally affected by the hurricane (our hotel lost electricity for about 12 hours), it would have been nice to know about the hurricane before we left the United States.

Where to Get Travel Warnings

Today, anyone planning a trip abroad can get up-to-date travel warnings before making their reservations by going to the State Department travel website at:

When the State Department issues a travel warning, they do so because they believe that a long-term situation exists in certain countries which could make it dangerous or unstable to visit those locations.  In those situations, they recommend Americans avoid traveling to those spots.  It may also mean that the U.S. government has a limited ability to assist American citizens who choose to visit the countries because the embassy or consulate may have been closed or is operating with minimal staff.

The list of countries is extensive, but currently includes:  Pakistan, Libya, North Korea, Guinea, Mali, the West Bank and Gaza areas of Israel, Iraq, Congo, Kenya, Afghanistan, Haiti, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Colombia and parts of Mexico, as well as a number of other countries.  Of course, if you are traveling to those countries on government business, your situation is different. If you are considering traveling to undeveloped or dangerous countries or, even more importantly, retiring abroad, you will want to check the U.S. State Department website regularly.

The Difference Between Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts

Sometimes, rather than issue a travel warning, our government issues a travel alert.  When the government issues travel alerts, they are letting you know about short-term conditions that could pose significant risks to the security of American citizens.  The type of risks involved include natural disasters, such as hurricanes, high profile events such as major sporting competitions or international conferences, as well as recent or anticipated terrorist attacks and coups.  Since there are no active hurricanes or coups taking place as I write this, there are no current travel alerts to report.  However, a wise traveler would check out the travel alerts as well as the travel warnings before taking an international trip because both lists can change quickly.

With easy access to government websites on our computers and smart phones, no American citizen should experience the shock of arriving in a country in the middle of an uprising or just prior to a hurricane.  Although not all dangerous travel situations can be avoided, traveling is more pleasant when we can avoid major disasters and political unrest.

If you are interested in more tips about travel, where to retire in the United States or abroad, financial planning, common medical issues or changing family relationships, use the tab or pull-down menu at the top of this page to find links to hundreds of helpful articles.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Green Valley Arizona Retirement Communities

Green Valley, Arizona has been a popular retirement area for nearly fifty years.  The first age restricted retirement community in the United States, Sun City, was built here in the 1960’s, and more have been developed in the area since that time.  

Why Green Valley Appeals to Retirees

Green Valley has a warm, sunny climate and a fairly low cost of living, which makes it an appealing location for many retirees.

Green Valley is located approximately twenty miles south of Tucson, Arizona, and 40 miles north of Nogales, Mexico.  Currently made up of about 59 Homeowners Associations, this charming area at the foot of the Santa Rita Mountains occupies 26.3 square miles and has a population of about 20,000 – 25,000 residents.  Most of the homeowner’s associations are restricted to individuals and couples with at least one person over the age of 55 in the household.  However, there are a few homeowners’ associations that are designed to allow families of all ages.

Green Valley, Arizona is one of the largest retirement communities in the world.  Median home prices in the area range from about $100,000 to $200,000, although luxury homes can sell for $600,000 or more.  Green Valley Recreation operates thirteen recreation centers in the community that include golf courses, fitness centers, swimming pools and similar facilities.  The winter months are quite temperate, with an occasional hard freeze at night; in the summer it can be extremely hot during the day.  After all, it is located in the Arizona desert!

Green Valley is a popular location for snow birds who choose to spend their winters in this high desert community.  Short term rentals are available, many of them in the $1,000 to $2,000 price range, although a few can be found both above and below that range.

Concerns about Green Valley

Retirees who are planning to move to Green Valley should confirm the current status of the water problems that have been a serious worry for the residents and businesses located in this area.

In a 2007 report, Pima County expressed concern about the water supply for Green Valley.  In fact, the report concluded that water supplies will be critical by 2017.  This is because of local mining operations, agriculture, golf courses and residential usage.  However, since 2007 steps have been taken to join with the US Bureau of Reclamation to transport and use Colorado River water and reduce the local reliance on excessive pumping from the aquifer.  It is hoped that these efforts will resolve the water crisis.

In addition, another concern is that the crime rate is considered somewhat high in Green Valley, particularly because of the drugs and illegal aliens that have infiltrated the area.  However, although the overall crime rate for the area is high, residents of many of the gated, age-restricted communities do not see crime as a serious local problem.

The final issue that could concern some retirees is that the nearest hospitals are in Tucson, about 24 miles away.

Bottom Line on Green Valley Retirement Communities

This has long been a popular area with retirees, and members of the local residential and business communities are working to resolve the ongoing water problems.  However, before buying a home in this area, you will want to do research on whether or not you should expect water rationing or other limitations on your water usage.  If you are concerned about crime, you may also want to live in one of the many gated communities in the area.

For more information on where to retire in the United States or abroad, common medical problems, financial planning and changing family relationships, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this page to find links to hundreds of additional useful articles.

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Great Places to Retire in the Northern US

About a decade ago, a couple we knew decided to leave the popular Sun Belt city of Dallas, Texas in order to retire to the San Juan Islands in Washington State’s Puget Sound (pictured here).  They bought a sailboat and lived on it for the next decade.  As they aged, they eventually built a home in the tiny town of Friday Harbor, where they still live today. 

While we did not realize it at the time, this couple was part of a growing movement of people who are choosing to forego popular retirement areas such as Florida and Arizona and move to quiet small communities in the northern United States.  Many of them are attracted to the cooler weather, changing seasons, relaxed atmosphere and natural beauty that they are finding in these areas.

Unique Places to Retire in the US

According to a September 16, 2012 article on Yahoo!News entitled “Retirees Head to Unconventional Destinations,” some retirees are choosing to move to these cooler locations:

Camden, Maine
Ruidoso, New Mexico
Durango, Colorado
San Juan Islands, Washington
St. George, Utah
D’Alene, Idaho
Kalispell, Montana
Northern Michigan, along lakes Superior and Michigan

You’ll notice that all of these locations are either in the northern part of the United States or, like Ruidoso, are in a mountainous area with a cool climate and a northern state feeling.  Most of these areas are peppered with charming small towns containing a selection of affordable homes.  For people who want to avoid large retirement communities in hot or tropical climates, such as Florida and Arizona, these locations can seem like Heaven.

Among some of the Baby Boomers I know personally, moving to the northern United States does appear to be a growing trend.  One of the teachers I worked with in Southern California surprised us all by retiring to a small town in Montana about four years ago.  Another couple we know recently moved away from Northern California and purchased a home that is just a mile from the coast of Lake Superior.  In the winter months, when the weather can be severe, they plan to rent a house in Arizona and avoid the worst months of ice and snow.

When our children were growing up, we often took them on vacation during the summer to beautiful vacation areas near Ruidoso, NM and Durango, CO.  Although we never thought about retiring in either location ourselves, we have known other people who chose to relocate to both cities.

Why People Retire in the Northern States

There are many reasons why people are relocating to these cooler locations.  Some people simply do not enjoy the heat that predominates in the southern states of Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and the Southern California desert cities of Palm Springs, La Quinta and Palm Desert.  In other cases, retirees prefer the lush green hardwood trees and heavy forests of the mountains and northern climates rather than the tropical foliage that is more common in the Sun Belt.  They enjoy having four seasons.  A third reason why people choose to live in these locations is to be nearer adult children who are living in these regions because of their jobs.  As we age, many of us prefer not to be too far away from our adult children and grandchildren.

Whatever reason you decide to select one of these more unusual retirement locations, rest assured that you are not alone in making this choice.  For example, Camden, Maine has more people living there who are in their 60’s than there are people living in the town who are in their 20’s and 30’s combined!

Most of the communities on this list are small and charming, with a low cost of living, good hospitals, recreational activities, cultural opportunities, nice restaurants and even the possibility of finding a part-time job in a restaurant, museum or similar facility.  For those who enjoy spending time outdoors hiking, skiing, biking, boating or enjoying similar sports, these towns are especially appealing.

Want more retirement ideas?  Use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles on where to retire in the United States or overseas, medical issues you may develop, financial planning, changing family relationships, travel and more.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Villages Active Adult Community in Florida

If you are thinking about retiring in Florida, one active adult community that you will want to consider is The Villages.  This master planned age-restricted community is located in Central Florida about 45 miles northwest of Orlando.  

This is an ideal location if you have adult children and grandchildren who will be visiting, because they will enjoy the proximity to Disneyworld and the other Orlando theme parks.  However, making it easy for your relatives to go to Disneyland should not be the only reason to consider The Villages!

Income and Demographics of The Villages

As of 2010, the population of The Villages was 51,442.  It is the largest age-restricted community in Florida and the fastest growing small town in the United States.  The Villages is made up of a number of subdivisions or neighborhoods.  Nearly all of the neighborhoods qualify under the Housing for Older Persons Act, which means they are restricted to individuals or couples with at least one person who is age 55 or older residing in the home, and no one under the age of 19 living in the home for more than 30 days within a calendar year.  However, there are three subdivisions in The Villages that do allow children under the age of 19 to be permanent residents.  Overall, about 40 percent of the residents are between the ages of 45 to 64, and over 57 percent of the residents are age 65 and older.

The median household income is about $45,000 to $48,000 ... well within the means of many couples on Social Security with little additional income.

Home Choices in the Villages

The types of homes available in The Villages include manufactured homes, single family homes, and attached homes. Development began at The Villages with a group of manufactured homes in the late 1970’s.  Today there are manufactured homes as well as cottages, patio villas, ranch homes, courtyard villas, designer homes and premier homes.

New construction and pre-owned homes are available for sale in The Villages.  Typical home prices currently range from about $140,000 to over $350,000, although homes can be priced for less than $100,000 or for over $1,000,000.  Some examples of the homes that were available for sale in 2012 were single-family homes with two bedrooms and two bathrooms in the $140,000 to the $160,000 price range, and three bedroom homes starting at $160,000 and going up in price from there.  For buyers who are interested in purchasing a second home in The Villages, there are even some homes for sale that come fully furnished.  

Sinkholes in The Villages

Since this article was originally written, a large sinkhole developed in the Villages and had been repaired.  It made two homes uninhabitable and it is always possible that additional sinkholes could affect more.  Sinkholes are a recurring problem in Florida.  It was also an issue in an article I wrote about Timber Pines, a retirement community in the Tampa Bay area.

Sinkholes do not necessarily mean you should not move into a community.  Most sinkholes can be dealt with by pumping a cement-like substance under the home as soon as a sinkhole is detected.  However, this is not always the case.  If you decide to buy a home in Florida, whether it is in The Villages, Timber Pines or any other community, you may want to have it checked for sinkholes before finalizing the deal. This is particularly true in a band across the center of the  state, moving eastward from Tampa and through the Orlando area. 

Recreational Activities in The Villages

The Villages has a wide variety of activities to offer retirees.  One of the most popular features of The Villages is the concept that residents can play “Free Golf for Life.”  However, the cost of golf is actually included in the homeowners’ dues, so technically the golf is not actually free.  The Villages operates 39 golf courses, 29 of which are nine-hole executive courses.  Those 29 courses are free to play as long as you walk the course.  There is a charge for using a golf cart.  If you play one of the ten country club style courses, you are required to pay a greens fee.

In addition to golf, The Villages has a large number of swimming pools and courts for bocce ball, horseshoes, shuffleboard, tennis, basketball and pickleball.  There are also fitness centers (some of which require residents to purchase a membership), and theaters with stages to accommodate live performances.

Residents may also want to take advantage of the softball fields, polo stadium, woodworking shop, hobby and craft studios, ballrooms or the Lifelong Learning College.  There are several catch and release fishing lakes on the property.  There are approximately 1000 clubs including clubs for people who enjoy bird watching, astronomy, photography, SCUBA diving, or who wish to support their favorite college or pro sports team.

The community also contains two town squares which contain movie theaters, shops and restaurants.  There is free entertainment nightly in the gazebos of both the town squares.  A third town square has recently been completed.

The community is completely self contained with post offices, banks, restaurants and a wide choice of recreational opportunities.

Medical Facilities at The Villages

In addition to the fitness centers located throughout The Villages, new residents can feel reassured that medical care is conveniently located within the community, as well.  Local facilities include The Villages Regional Hospital, Moffitt Cancer Center, a VA outpatient clinic, a long term acute care hospital and senior living facilities.  Several doctors and dentists also have offices in The Villages.

If you want more information about The Villages, you can call 1-800-245-1081.

If you want to read more about other areas to retire, as well as find additional retirement information, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this page and you will find links to hundreds of other retirement articles, including articles on a number of other places to retire.

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Retirement Money and Federal Reserve Decisions

In 2012, Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, announced that the Fed was going to begin purchasing $40 billion a month in bonds "as long as necessary" in order to stimulate our sluggish economy.  This decision was referred to as QE3, or the third round of Quantitative Easing.  The effects of this decision on the financial markets were immediate, with stocks surging.

However, many retirees and Baby Boomers who plan to retire during the next few years are concerned about the effect QE3 will have on their retirement plans.  Will this help or hurt retirees?  The truth is that it could do either, depending on your personal circumstances.

The Wealth Effect of the Federal Reserve Decision

According to an article in The Washington Post, called "The Wealth Effect," the goal of the Federal Reserve is to give Americans the feeling of prosperity.  This is achieved when stock prices and home prices rise.  People perceive that they have more money, which makes them more willing to spend.  The more Americans spend, the more manufacturing and other businesses improve.  This creates more jobs, when everything goes as planned.

When interest rates go down, stock prices tend to go up.  This happens because many investors will reduce their investments in low-yield bonds and put more money into stocks.  Stocks are more risky, but they often provide greater returns.  In addition, low interest rates on loans make it possible for corporations to have greater profits, so they have more money to reinvest in their businesses.

Joseph Gagnon of the Peterson Institute for International Economics estimates that consumer spending increases by about 3 to 5 cents for every $1 increase in stock prices.  This, of course, has a stimulating effect on the economy, which provides jobs and opportunities even for those people who do not own stocks.

Another way low interest rates stimulate the economy is by making home loans more affordable.  The idea is that this stimulates home sales, causing home prices to rise.  Of course, if people have difficulty finding a mortgage, home prices do not rise as much as the Fed would like.  However, any rise in home prices can benefit homeowners.

In general, the Federal Reserve expects that people see their investments, including retirement savings, increase in value whenever they lower interest rates and pump money into the economy.  In addition, when homeowners see their home values increase, it makes it easier for them to sell their homes, take out a second mortgage or, in the case of retirees, get a reverse mortgage.  All of this makes it sound like the Fed decision is 100 percent beneficial.  However, the picture is not entirely rosy when the Fed stimulates the economy.

The Effect of the Fed Decision on Retirement Income

Millions of Americans who retired during the 1980's and 1990's planned to supplement their meager Social Security and pension benefits with additional income from their retirement savings.  However, while many of these retirees were initially able to put their money into safe bank CD's and bonds which paid six percent or more in interest or dividends, those same retirees are now lucky if they get a two percent return. 

When interest rates began to drop about in 2007, some of these retirees put their savings into the stock market. They were devastated when the markets crashed.  Often, they pulled what was left of their savings out of the stock market and returned it to the bank.  Of course, after five years of low interest rates, often combined with the loss of part of their principal, these retirees were left with much less income than they ever expected.

For retirees who are dependent on interest income to supplement their retirement income, the Fed's decision to keep interest rates extremely low has been a devastating blow.  This decision has made it much more difficult for retirees to manage their money so that it will last the remainder of their lives.

In addition, the Fed decision could eventually cause runaway inflation, if it is not reversed.  This would cause expenses to rise for retirees (and others), making it even more difficult for them to have sufficient income to meet their needs.

On the other hand, when the Fed succeeds in their goal of causing both the stock market and housing prices to rise, the increased wealth helps those retirees who own either stocks or a home.  As you can see, whether Fed decisions benefit you or not depends on your personal circumstances.

Either way, when you make your retirement plans it is important that you assume that interest rates will remain low for at least the next few years.  Even if the Fed slightly raises interest rates starting in 2015 or 2016, as planned, it could take years before the returns are adequate to help retirees live off the income.  New retirees should use only a minimal amount of their retirement savings during the early years after they stop working, in order to survive financially in later years.

If you are interested in additional ideas for financial planning, where to retire, medical issues and changing family relationships, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of other helpful articles.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Popular Retirement Communities in the United States

As you can see in the index articles (see the tabs at the top of the page), this blog has published detailed descriptions of a number of retirement communities located within the United States.  These articles are meant to be an aid to readers who are trying to decide where they want to live after they retire.  In the future, even more communities and retirement community developers will be covered. 

Until all of these locations have been covered, I thought it would be useful to provide my readers with a list of some of the most popular retirement communities in the United States.  All of them have websites where you can learn more.  In addition, I highly recommend that people look for information that is NOT on the official websites.  This is where you will find out if the community has problems or disadvantages that will not be mentioned on their home pages.

Some of the communities listed below have already been discussed in this blog.  You can find those article by using the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this page and looking under "Retire in the US."  This will take you to an index with links to dozens of articles on where to retire in the United States.

Selection of Popular Retirement Communities in the US

The Villages in Florida
Green Valley in Arizona
Tellico Village in Tennessee
The Settlement at Powhatan Creek in Williamsburg, Virginia
Lake Weir Living, near the Villages in Florida
Fearrington Village in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Hot Springs Village in Hot Springs, Arkansas
The Fountains at Lake Pointe Woods in Sarasota, Florida
The Moorings in Vero Beach, Florida
Sun City in Arizona
Sun City Georgetown in Georgetown, Texas
Millville by the Sea in Bethany Beach, Delaware
Holly Lake Ranch in Tyler, Texas
Southern Palms in Ladson, South Carolina
The Village at Penn State in State College, Pennsylvania
Waterside in Bethany Beach, Delaware
Terravita in Scottsdale, Arizona
Avery Ranch in Austin, Texas
Trilogy Central Coast in San Luis Obispo, California

How These Communities Were Selected

Communities for active adults who are over the age of 55 exist throughout the United States.  These particular communities are not necessarily the twenty most popular ones in the United States, because that is difficult to assess.  However, they were chosen because their websites and the articles written about them tend to receive an exceptional number of internet views every month, which indicates that retirees are finding these neighborhoods to be especially interesting.  

In addition, I selected these retirement communities from a variety of sources, because they are located in different areas around the United States.  There is no reason for potential retirees to feel as if they absolutely have to move to an entirely new region of the country in order to find a suitable retirement community.  This list includes communities on both coasts, as well as within the states of Florida, Arkansas, Texas, Pennsylvania and Arizona.

Continue to expect future articles on this blog about these active adult communities, alternated with other timely articles for Baby Boomers about retirement planning, overseas retirement locations, Social Security, Medicare, important medical information and changing family relationships.  If there are other communities that interest you, please feel free to mention them in the comments section and every attempt will be made to research them and provide relevant information.

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Laguna Woods Village Active Adult Community

Laguna Woods Village, on the outskirts of the town of Laguna Beach, California, has been chosen as one of the 2012 Top Ten Best Active Adult Communities in the United States by Top Retirements.  I have to agree with their assessment of Laguna Woods Village, since that is where I live.

It is a lovely retirement community, just four miles from the beach and surrounded by open land ... including the horseback riding trails shown in the photo.  It is also adjacent to the 20,000 acre Laguna Wilderness area.  Whether you like having all the advantages of living in an urban area or you enjoy time in the outdoors, this community has something that should appeal to nearly every retiree.

Advantages of Laguna Woods Village

Laguna Woods Village has a wealth of recreational choices and amenities, including a 27 hole golf course, a nine hole golf course, five outdoor swimming pools, two fitness centers with on-site trainers, ten tennis courts, four paddle tennis courts, lawn bowling courts, shuffleboard courts and numerous ping-pong and pool tables.  Two garden centers make it possible for people who love to garden to enjoy this activity in an area that has been set aside for that purpose.  There are also seven clubhouses, an elegant golf starter building with restaurant, an equestrian center with community owned horses, and a community center.  Part of the twenty-three acres of equestrian trails are shown in the photo that accompanies this article.

One of the clubhouses contains a theater where residents can enjoy live performances throughout the year.  Another clubhouse is devoted to artistic endeavors and contains woodworking and art studios, as well as a sewing room.  The other clubhouses have rooms that are appropriate for club meetings, parties, dances and social activities.

Speaking of clubs, Laguna Woods Village has over 200 official clubs.  Many of these clubs organize their own special parties, outings and trips.

The recreation department also offers a variety of exercise classes and activities.  The equestrian center offers trail rides and horseback riding lessons to the residents, as well as their adult children and grandchildren over the age of ten, at very affordable prices.

In addition, nearby Saddleback College offers approximately 200 free emeritus classes in and near the community.  Several Southern California casinos have buses that pick up residents and provide free transportation to and from the casinos.  There is also a free bus system that operates within the community, as well as to nearby shopping malls and doctors' offices.

Home prices vary dramatically.  Most co-ops can be purchased between $150,000 and $350,000.  Condominiums can be purchased from $200,000 to over $1 million for some of the larger homes with garages and views.  There are also high rise condominiums with prices that range from $10,000 to $350,000.  These prices are general and there are properties that are available outside these ranges.  This is just intended to give you an idea of what to expect.  Cooperatives are less expensive because they are older and there are more restrictions and financing complications involved.  However, they are a very good deal, especially for people who have sold a home in the Midwest and are looking for a bargain in Southern California.

Laguna Woods Village is a very safe community.  It has one of the lowest crime rates of any town its size in California, partly because the entire community is walled, with fourteen guarded gates and a private security force.  In addition, with so many senior citizens who are home during the day, it is very difficult for strangers to enter a home without someone noticing.

Laguna Woods Village is also well located in Orange County, California, just four miles from beautiful Laguna Beach.  This lovely nearby town not only features beautiful beaches, but also has numerous art galleries, shops, and restaurants, as well as fun art festivals in the summer.

There is no question that Laguna Woods Village qualifies as an active adult community.  Most of the residents have a full daily calendar of activities, which can include bridge, line dancing, yoga, water aerobics, art classes and much more.

Disadvantages of Laguna Woods Village

There are approximately 18,000 residents of Laguna Woods Village, living in about 12,000 condominiums and cooperatives.  Almost all of the housing units have one or two bedrooms and one or two bathrooms, which is smaller than many residents were accustomed to prior to living in Laguna Woods Village.  Most of the housing units are assigned only one parking spot in a carport.  While some of the condominiums have the appearance of single family homes with one or two car garages, none of the cooperatives have that option.  As a result, most residents have an adjustment to make when they move to Laguna Woods Village.  The majority of them no longer have a single family home with a private garage.

In addition, nearly all of Laguna Woods Village was built in the 1960's and 1970's.  Although many residents have updated their condominiums and condos, there are still many units that need to be modernized.  Whether or not the property has been updated is usually reflected in the price of the property.

There are also several layers of government in Laguna Woods Village, which does create some friction.  The cooperatives, condominiums and high rise towers each have their own governing association, with different HOA fees and services. Above all of these associations is another layer of government called the Golden Rain Foundation, or GRF.  GRF hires the maintenance people for the entire community.  Since Laguna Woods Village is also a city, there is a city government that needs to be dealt with from time to time, especially if you decide to make improvements to your property.  It can seem cumbersome to deal with all these governing bodies until one gets accustomed to it.

Bottom Line on Laguna Woods Village

Essentially, this community is a wonderful place to live and, after living here the past eleven years, it is hard for me to imagine growing old anywhere else.  Although there are disadvantages anywhere you live, the advantages of living in this community far outweigh any problems we have experienced.

If you are looking for more retirement ideas, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this article to find information on finances, places to live, medical issues you might expect during retirement, family issues and more!

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Photo of Laguna Woods Village equestrian trail from author's private collection.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Risks of Living Abroad

Over the years, this blog has included a number of articles that suggest beautiful and exotic places to consider if you are interested in living overseas.  Many of these areas, such as Costa Rica, Belize, Ecuador and Panama, have well-established communities full of American ex-patriots and there are agencies which are able to provide you with tours of the countries and help you find your dream home.  It all sounds idyllic and the perfect way to spend your golden years.  However, I would be doing my readers a serious disservice if I left everyone with the impression that life is always perfect in these developing countries.  Here are just a few incidents that I have heard about from people who thought they were going to improve their lives by moving overseas.

Costa Rica and the Pacific Ring of Fire

As a resident of Southern California, I shouldn't express concern about earthquakes.  We have experienced several of them, and there has been no significant damage in our area as a result.  However, we have a young family friend who teaches school in Costa Rica and  they have had a 7.6 earthquake there.  Neither she nor her students were injured in the earthquake, but she reported that she had a difficult time getting home because of the damaged roads, mudslides, and similar hazards.  Fortunately, once she did arrive home, she was able to use a computer and let all of her family and friends in the U.S. know that she was safe.

The Pacific Ring of Fire is the term used to describe the coastal areas that surround the Pacific Ocean where a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.  This Ring of Fire includes many of the places that are frequently under consideration by people who are moving abroad.  Among the countries included in the Ring of Fire are Mexico, Chile, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Philippines, Panama and all of Central America and Southeast Asia, including Thailand.  The earthquakes that occur in these areas can be very severe and do significant damage to the local infrastructure.

Serious Medical Problems Experienced while Living Abroad

Many Americans travel to other countries in order to obtain inexpensive medical treatments.  This is called medical tourism and often involves elective or cosmetic surgeries that are very expensive in the United States.  It is not unusual for many less developed countries to have fabulous hospitals that cater to medical tourism.

However, last spring a retired couple we know were exploring the idea of living abroad in Ecuador.  They had researched it thoroughly, made arrangements to rent a house for a couple of months, and signed up to start their Ecuador experience with a tour of the country.  Halfway through the tour, the wife collapsed when an aneurysm in her brain burst.  The tour company took her to a high quality hospital where they were able to stop the bleeding in her brain and repair the aneurysm.  The medical facility did an excellent job on the repair, as attested by her American doctors.  However, she was very lucky.  It took the tour company eleven hours to get her to the appropriate hospital.  This couple is back in the United States and they have dropped the idea of moving overseas to Ecuador or any other foreign country.

When our young friend who is teaching in Costa Rica became sick with an identified infection about a year ago, she was sent by the school where she worked back to the United States in order to receive better treatment.  Although the American doctors were unable to determine the cause of the infection, she is now healthy and has returned to Costa Rica.  However, it is interesting that she needed to return to the US in order to get the medical treatment that she needed.

A California Family's Experience after Moving to Belize

Readers may also want to read the new book, "Freeways to Flip Flops," (available from Amazon using this link).  It is about a Southern California family's experience when they moved to Belize.  They sold their home in Lake Forest, California and moved their entire family there, including their teenage sons.  In a little over a year, they moved back to California.  They spent their time in Belize dealing with scorpions, rats, smelly drinking water, heat and humidity.  They were dissatisfied with the educational opportunities for their children.  The husband attempted to work from Belize; however, the computer system was so unreliable that he lost his job.  There were many other problems that they experienced, as well, so it might be worthwhile to read this book before you decide to make such a dramatic move.

Do not expect to find life in a foreign country to be like your life in the United States.  There will be inconveniences.  Our young friend in Costa Rica eventually moved to a gated community there, after her home in the local town was robbed.  Her home in the gated community was considerably more expensive ... similar in price to homes in the United States.  She also has bars on the windows and still has to deal with plumbing problems, huge spiders, etc.  She loves living there and has no plans to move back to the U.S.  However, living overseas does require some flexibility.

The Bottom Line on Moving Abroad

If you are the adventurous type, you may discover that living in another country is not a problem for you.  Like our young teacher friend, even if you run into difficulties you may fall in love with your new country and decide to stay, no matter what inconveniences you experience.  In fact, this young woman has now married a Costa Rican businessman, and they now have a one-year old daughter.  This has made her even more cautious about her home's security.

When I wrote posts that recommend different countries where you may want to live, I do not want to create the impression that everything will always go well.  There will be challenges and inconveniences that may grow tiring after a while, especially as you get older.  The important thing is to be realistic and aware of some of the problems you may experience before you make such a life altering decision.

Looking for more ideas about where to retire?  Use the tabs or list at the top of this article.  They will connect you with hundreds of additional articles on where to retire, financial planning, medical issues, changing family relationships and other related information.

You may specifically want to read:

Best Places to Retire Outside the US
American Retiring in Panama
Live in Ecuador Comfortably on Social Security
Retiring in Luxury to Hua Hin, Thailand
Why Retire in Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands or Guam

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Living with your Adult Children

While most of us cannot imagine living with our children as we age, it has become a reality for a growing number of senior citizens.  Sometimes, it is by choice.  The adult children look to their parents for help with baby sitting or similar assistance.  In other cases, it is because the senior citizens can no longer afford to support themselves on their meager retirement benefits.  Sometimes it is because they have developed dementia or health problems and the children take in their parents so they can care for them.  In some families it is normal for several generations to live together.  Whatever the reason, there are a number of issues you may need to consider before deciding if this is the right decision for you.

What If You Cannot Support Yourself as You Age?

In the last few years, my husband and I have known a few local retirees who had to move in with their adult children.  In every case, this was the last thing they ever expected to have happen in their later years. Apparently, this has actually become an increasing trend.  According to the AARP Bulletin for September 2012, in an article entitled, "When Parents Move In With Kids," as recently as 2011 there were 4.6 million parents living with an adult child.  This was a 13.7 percent increase from just three years earlier, in 2008.  The numbers continue to grow.

Since so many retirees lost substantial amounts of their savings during the 2007 recession, there have been increasing numbers of retirees who simply do not have enough money to live on their own.  Many of them also lost their homes to foreclosure.  If they were laid off during this period of time, they may have had to take Social Security early and, consequently, their income is not enough to cover their expenses.  In addition, they may have run through their savings or suffered substantial losses in the stock market.

Other Reasons You May Need to Live With Your Children

As mentioned above, there are also other reasons why retired senior citizens may find themselves living in their children's homes.  Sometimes it is their declining health which makes it difficult for them to care for themselves.  In other cases, it may be declining mental function. 

There can also be positive reasons why they might move in with a child.  For example, the child may want them to take care of the grandchildren.  In some families, it is common for the several generations to live together.  It can also make it possible for the families to purchase a home when the resources of two generations are combined.

Why a Written Agreement May Make the Transition Easier

When parents move in with their adult children, AARP recommends that the new living arrangement will be more comfortable for both the parents and their children if they set up a few ground rules in advance.  In fact, AARP suggests that both the parents and adult children write down the agreement, to avoid misunderstandings once you move in.  It may seem awkward to have a written agreement with your child; however, it could avoid a lot of problems in the future.  Listed below are some of the topics that you need to discuss and resolve in writing before you move in.  Feel free to add any other issues that concern you or your child.

Questions to Answer before Moving in with the Kids

How much will you contribute financially?
Who will pay for extra expenses such as a home healthcare aide?
Are you expected to help with chores, babysitting, running errands, etc.?
Will you travel with the family on vacation, and who will pay?
If you have a pet, can you bring it with you?
Will you have at least a private room and sitting area in their home?
Will there be a problem if you smoke or drink alcohol?
If you lose your driver's license, are they able to provide transportation for you?
If you pay your child for your care, what will the tax consequences be for them?
If you give them money, how will it affect Medicaid if you need a nursing home later?
If you purchase a new home with your child, what future problems could this cause?
If you have other children, will this living arrangement affect your will?
Will your other children have you stay in their homes periodically?
What social activities will there be for you to do?
If you are single, will it make your child uncomfortable if you date?
How do they feel about overnight guests, especially a boyfriend or girlfriend?
If your adult child is single, how will you feel about them bringing home dates for the night?

Seeking Professional Help before Living with Adult Children

As you can see, you may need professional help in order to answer some of these questions.  Check with an elder care lawyer or financial planner in order to help you both make the best decisions for your family.  If you have difficulty reaching agreement on some of these topics, don't simply move in and expect that everything will work out. 

You may also need to consult a family therapist to resolve issues that could cause stress in your relationship.  For example, does your adult child want you keep your mouth shut when it comes to the way they are raising their kids?  Are you willing to do that?  If you think that might be hard for you, then you may need to seek a different place to live.  After all, you are moving in with their family, and you want to create as few problems as possible.

Alternatives to Living With Your Children

You may not have considered alternatives to living with your adult children.  If you have financial issues, you may qualify for a senior apartment at an affordable price or a Section 8 voucher that will pay part of your rent.  You may also be qualified for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or food stamps and help with your Medicare premiums.  With a little financial assistance, you may be able to maintain your privacy and continue to live on your own.

If you have mental or medical issues that mean you need assisted living, you may be able to apply for Medicaid to get your expenses covered in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility, including one for memory loss.  This would relieve your children of the burden of caring for you and would be safer than being left alone while your adult children go to work.

Remember:  If you are hesitant about moving in with your adult children for any reason, seek help from your local Social Security and Social Service offices.  They can let you know what services you are eligible to receive.

If you need more information to help you get the retirement help you need, use the tabs or scroll-down list at the top of this page.  They contain links to hundreds of additional articles on where to retire, medical information, financial planning, or changing family relationships.

You may also be interested in reading:

Healing Relationships with Your Adult Children
Retiring Former Hippies Spark a New Generation Gap
Cheap Places to Retire
Best Places to Retire in the United States on $100 a Day
Part-time Retirement Jobs for Baby Boomers

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