Retirement and the Dreams of Children

The myth of ‘happily ever after’. It is something that occupies my thoughts as I start to focus my dreams for the future, senses and views heightened by the knowledge that retirement will be in the next decade and that it will come with many challenges. Some interesting thoughts in this blog.

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“I Want to Live Happily Ever After.”  This sentiment is understandable in a child.  Vulnerable and inexperienced, their growth relies on fantasy to some degree.  But retirement services aren’t peddled to children.  The little girl in this ad by Ameritrade speaks to adults, and not necessarily to parents alone.  Her shyness warms hearts but also plants a reminder of human frailty.  She hides behind pictures of princesses and butterflies, a symbol of our inner child, and if we are not in touch with our emotions, a messenger of fear.

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Fiscal Responsibility

All my life I have been sensible with money.  I’ve had to be.  Some of the early life and study choices that I made meant that I had to live at times on a very meagre salary.  With frugal living patterns, I managed to buy my first house at 22, and that of course meant that my income was even more tightly controlled.  There was little or no disposable income and so the overseas holidays, concerts and discretionary expenditure that my friends indulged in were beyond my means.  Getting a private pilot’s licence also gobbled up a lot of money in my early twenties.

It’s taken a long time, but finally I have a reasonable salary.  My son is semi-independent and and I can see my life taking new directions.  I have been making plans for all the travel that I would like to do now.  Just as this happens though, my company hits a rocky period and we know that there are redundancies coming up.  We just don’t know who.  Should I be one of those who draws the short straw, I will be in a precarious situation.  At my age and in the current abysmal employment market, my chances of getting a comparable job again are slim.  Even prospects of any job are slim.  Sadly, I don’t have the financial resources with which to take an early retirement.  Interesting times ahead.

The challenge for me now is maintaining an enforced frugality in the face of uncertainly.  On the one hand, it is not difficult in that I have the skills developed over a lifetime.   On the other, I really want to lash out on the bucket list.  I would love to commission myself a new nose, I lust after a pink Argyle diamond and most of all I want to travel.  I would like to do a Motor home trip around Tasmania, and then to do the same for New Zealand.  That is for starters.  I would also of course like the luxury of the time to write – being able to finance my literary aspirations.  At the moment, I don’t dare do any of it as I have no idea how long my resources may have to last.  If I lose my job, I may have the time to write but I will probably be too busy scrabbling for employment to be able to relax into it.

After an initial panic, I will repeat my mantra to myself.  The sun will come up tomorrow; I will have food to eat, clothes to wear and somewhere to live.  Anything else is a bonus.  I have lived through tough times before and no doubt will again.  It would be nice sometimes though if there were not so many potholes on the journey through life.  Oh, and sometimes I am not so good on the frugality.  Today I took delivery of my Canon 650D SLR Camera.  I am so looking forward to learning how to use it and of course intend to use it to illustrate some of my writings.  It looks to be a brilliant camera.

Building a Retirement Village

I often think about retirement years, where and how I’ll live and with whom.  I’m not partnered so of course the ‘with whom’ questions might be easy to answer:  I’ll live alone.  That might not always be possible though, and I might not always want it either. 

So what are my options?  I have thrown ideas around in my head for a while and had over-coffee discussions with friends that have given rise to general agreement but have gone nowhere specific.  All of us value our autonomy and independence and want to live an active life for as long as we are able, part of the community still and definitely not located in a closed retirement enclave.  We don’t want to live our lives by the rules that we typically associate with retirement villages.

For this reason, I was interested in the discussion that took place on ABC Radio National this morning on ‘To move or not to move?”

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/to-move2c-or-not-to-move-as-you-get-older3f/4640128

Guests on the program and those who rang in discussed many of those issues that I have cited: the need for control and autonomy; remaining part of the community but living in a supportive environment and having access to the support and facilities that they also required.

It seems that we are all thinking along the same lines.  I love the house that I have built, but I know that it will be too expensive for me to run and maintain in coming years, plus I don’t want to spend all my time working on or maintaining the house.  Ideally, I would develop a solution that is environmentally sensitive and as a consequence cheaper to run and maintain.  Besides the facility that I have now – lots of storage, cleanable surfaces, welcoming character and atmosphere – I would like to build a place also that has those sacred and secret places either inside or outside.  I would like to be able to entertain guests or dare I hope, one day the grandchildren.  My secret indulgent wish is that I could also have a heated lap pool as I love swimming.

There are advantages to looking at a combined development – one that takes you into the future with shared facilities (I’m happy to share the pool), reduced costs, shared maintenance costs and with other like-minded people.  My preference would be for a metropolitan village, as I am a city-based girl.  I like having access to cinemas and cafés and a range of cultural and artistic facilities.  If feasible, I would live in an inner-city location.  That could be achieved with buying up a cluster of houses that back onto each other and demolishing the dividing fences and creating shared areas.

Alternatively, and preferably if one had the financial resources, another option would be to demolish those houses and to start again, with purpose-built housing solutions and a site that was master-planned from the beginning.  Those who were interviewed in the radio program seemed to be taking the rural option, building their village on a green field site close to a town so that they still had access to facilities, but had enough land available to provide each dwelling with some acreage.

They all seemed to have similar ideas.  I liked the provision of gopher tracks so in times of reduced mobility, the residents could ride their gophers to the local town as well as around their ‘village’.  There was talk of communal gardens and shared tradespeople and bulk purchasing, all of which sounds sensible.  Every proposal talked of eco-sensitive design which was going to result in sustainable development and reduced running costs.  One project sensibly talked about a central guest accommodation unit so that there was somewhere for visitors to stay, and meaning that individual houses did not need to be as big.  Something to contemplate although I would still like to have visitors staying with me.

Although frequent mention was made of like-minded people, it was also stressed that the community did not need to be of a homogenous age group and that having interaction with a variety of ages was also important.  That could have be with visitors or local community interaction, or even people of varied age groups living permanently within the community.

I like the concepts that have been discussed here and have been mulling over the options for some time.  I haven’t yet come to grips with how to get other people on board and how to decide on the type of development.  I still have time to play around with the idea.

If others have thoughts along these lines, or know of other retirement communities, I would love to hear about it.

 

 

Draw to the Coast

Do you ever dream of a sea change? I do … frequently. Apparently the term sea change is uniquely Australian. This is one of the things that I learnt in a seminar yesterday.

The Australian population is one of the most mobile in the western world, and we move commonly at times of life’s transitions. A female born at the beginning of this century has a live expectancy of 79 years. The closer she gets to that age however, the more her expectancy extends as by that time she has passed some of the earlier hurdles that could potentially cut her off at the pass, such as childhood or child birth. By the time this female reaches retirement age of 65 therefore, she still has 1/3 of her life to live. Makes you think about financial provision for the third age, doesn’t it? We have to provide for ourselves for such a long time for those who travel life as a solo venture, it’s even more important and just a little bit harder.

The time of retirement is one of those mobility triggers, as retirement is not necessarily spent in the same place as when one was in the work force. That means leaving a place of known community and probably established support. The choice of new location therefore is important as it needs to be somewhere that also offers support and the sort of links that might be required. Some people might think of moving to where the kids are, but given the mobility that I mentioned earlier, there is no guarantee that the kids will stay put. Following them can be a bad bet and not terribly practical. A sea change can seem attractive when making these sorts of decisions.

It’s not all about retirement of course. Some people make the move to the coast at other times of life. They may live at the coast, but work elsewhere. There are those who work FIFO (fly in fly out) or DIDO (drive in drive out) and those who telecommute. Some even manage to get employment in the new location. The smaller size of the coastal communities is attractive – also age-friendly communities. It’s not uncommon for some people, in or around the 40s, to buy a second home on the coast. It is either used as an investment or as a holiday home in the short term, but long term there is the intention to use it as a retirement home.

Demographers predict that Australia has another fifty years of being skewed towards an ageing population. It is further anticipated that the draw to the coast will be significant over this period. It wont be an end-of-life movement but part of a cycle of migration. There may then be a return to the city in later years when greater support is required, particularly of a medical nature.

Older people today enter retirement with significant lifestyle aspirations. Even though they may percolate towards the coast, good transport options between there and the city are important. Also other community facilities such as the medical support previously mentioned, sporting, gyms, entertainment (coffee!!!) educational facilities, and libraries etc.

Coastal markets are lifestyle markets. As such they have always been popular through currently they are going through a weak spot. This follows the softening of real estate prices in most states. Inland prices tend to be a bit cheaper and so some people opt for the tree change instead and regional centres are currently undergoing a resurgence.

I love the Adelaide Hills, but the draw for me has always been towards the ocean. I have long dreamed of a dual existence – a city-based apartment and the home down on the coast to which I could retreat. I think of a smaller community and the bracing walks or paddling in the shallows. Coffee whilst the waves crash on the shore just metres away from the beach-front Kaf. Working on my writing, calmed by the ebb and flow that takes place outside my window. Some dream.

This weekend I am staying in a coastal village located about 1 hour 40 minutes south of Adelaide. It has a beautiful bay although the wind can bracing as it sweeps up from the South Pole. This is just rental accommodation – the YHA in fact. This hostel is having a half-price Spring sale. Perfect for me as I booked quickly enough to secure the Suite, which is a cut above the usual hostel accommodation.

I’m going to chill, to drink some coffee, to go for a walk along the beach and I’ll explore the local galleries and shops. I could even catch a movie this evening in an adjacent town that is large enough to sport a cinema. Depends what is showing. I’ve just had a quick peak at the website and might do the late afternoon session of Red Dog.

I’m also going to look at a local subdivision. I have visited this place before and was intrigued enough to monitor progress with interest and get regular email updates. It is not waterfront, but is set back from the beach by 200 metres or so. A tunnel takes a walking/cycling path under an adjacent main road and leads to the beach. The family who have subdivided their agricultural land have a dream of developing a precinct that has wetlands, a restoration of the local ecology, and with all dwellings built on strictly monitored environmentally sustainable principles. They have progressed well so far. Houses look out onto lagoons which have attracted local birds, amphibians, and yabbies. Flinders University is monitoring the progress. The houses all look interesting and it has a strong community feel.

There’s no way I can afford this but it ticks a lot of boxes for me. After all I am now in late 50s and relate well to the lifestyle transitional issues that the demographers are talking about. I also want more space in which to breathe. There’s no harm in just having another look, is there? If I could just somehow manage to buy the land in the first instance and build up some equity for a while before building … Perhaps a lateral solution will present itself. We’ll see.

Another comment about change was made in my seminar. Actually it was a quote by Charles Darwin.
“It’s not the strongest of the species that survives or the most intelligent, but those who are the most responsive to change.” Makes you think.