Couples need to carefully evaluate retirement decisions

By Tom P Blake - Finding Love after 50

Note from Tom: This column was originally written in 2003. It was updated in 2016.

As people reach age 50, or perhaps a little older, most start thinking about retirement--where they’re going to live, whether they’ll have enough money, how they’ll afford health insurance, and what they’ll have to give up.

Many who thought they were financially secure, have had to rethink retirement options because of the loss of value in their stock portfolios over the years.

Another issue that couples--married and single--need to evaluate when planning retirement together is compatibility. Judging how they will get along when they have added free time, and are around each other more than when they were working.

“Retirement on the Oregon Coast means eating lots of fresh seafood and fresh berries,” said former San Clemente, California, resident, Myra.

Myra, and Jim, her husband of 43 years, said good-bye to Orange County five years ago, and retired to Bandon, a small coastal town about 90 miles north of the California border.

They purchased their ocean-view lot ten years ago. But, before deciding to move there, they drove through 29 states and three Canadian Provinces checking out what they call “qualifying retirement towns.” Their criteria: a population of less than 10,000, no urban sprawl, no contiguous towns, no Wal-Mart and no McDonalds. And yet, the town had to have a downtown with activities.

Myra and Jim decided Bandon was the best place for them. Four years ago, they built their retirement home on their lot. They have no regrets about leaving Orange County, but enjoy having friends visit.

My girlfriend Greta and Myra are old friends, they taught school together in Dana Point, California, for several years. Greta and I decided to see first-hand what living on the Oregon coast would be like. Last week we went on vacation, putting 2,300 miles on our car, which included a visit to Myra and Jim.

“When you retire, be sure the house you live in is paid for,” Myra said, giving us some retirement tips over a glass of cabernet, as we watched and heard the surf break from their living room deck.

“And if you’re going to make a major move, as we did,” Jim said, “try to do it before age 65. After that, you won’t have the energy.”

“Look at the area you’re considering during different times of the year,” Myra said. “Today, it’s 65 and sunny. During the winter, horrific storms hit with 100 miles per hour winds.”

A trip is a good measure of compatibility. Being together in a car for eight days, making lodging, dining, and sightseeing decisions, and at the end of the trip, caring and understanding as much as before, is an indication that you could handle retirement together. Greta and I feel we passed the compatibility test with flying colors. We have been a couple for five years.

While we loved Oregon, and will go back, we won’t retire there. We’re still a year or two away from retirement decisions.

Note from Tom: The above paragraph, written in 2003, turned out to be an understatement. I retired from my Dana Point Deli, Tutor and Spunky’s, in 2015, 12 years later. I worked until I was 75. Greta retired in 2008.

And not that we’ll retire in the true sense of the word. We’ll slow down a bit, and enjoy some added free time and take more trips.

The more we travel and see different parts of the country, the more we feel we’ll be living right here in South Orange County, California.

Note From Tom: That turned out to be true as well. In 2016, we both own the same houses that we owned in 2003. We have shared living in both houses during those years, and in 2016, are trying to downsize and get rid of “Stuff.”

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