Back to the Future: A Place in the Sun

Although we were already talking about retirement in early 2011, and of relocating to a warmer climate, it apparently took us until the end of April to sit down together and come up with a list of factors to consider when we talked about where we might want to go. For some reason lost to me now, we initially didn’t rank anything, and outside of “lots of sunshine” none of the items on our list was more important than any other. But, setting a target date for our move was important – we wanted to have a date to aim for.

Hawaii still appeared on our list of potential locations, which surprises me a bit as we started out considering it as something of a joke. But, three months later, there it is, still on the list, and not as much of a joke as it had been. I was also surprised that we had added Florida to the list, but it had some of the things on our list, and we did investigate it as a possible post-Portland home.

At the end of the post, I asked for what else we should be considering, and a few people mentioned taxes, so that became another factor added to our list, and it made a difference in ultimately deciding to move to Hawaii.

In the meantime, we were still furiously paying down our debt as our motivation continued to grow, especially as the amount we owed grew smaller, and as we honed in on a post-retirement location. We knew there were still going to be bumps along the way, but our post-debt future was beginning to take shape.

A Place in the Sun

Brett and I both independently came to the realization this winter that we don’t want to stay in Portland for too long after he retires at the end of next year. We’ve lived here for nearly 20 years, and while there is a great deal that we love about this city, Oregon, and the Pacific Northwest, we are both tired of the dreary winters and want to live someplace where we can enjoy the sun a bit more consistently than we do now. While we both enjoy all the green that comes with Portland, we are both weary of hibernating all winter, of walking dogs in the rain, and of everything else that comes along with all the wet and gloom.

So, we have been working on a list of priorities for where we’d like to eventually settle and have come up with this shortlist:

  • Weather (lots of sunshine)
  • Cost of living
  • Schools (two of the girls will still be in high school)
  • Ocean nearby
  • Mountains close by (less than a day’s drive)
  • Western U.S. (because our son and his family live in Japan)
  • Substantial Asian community (because our girls are ethnically Chinese)
  • Military facilities nearby

We haven’t gotten around to weighting any of these as more important than the others, except for the weather.  Probably the least important (to me, anyway) is having any mountains fairly close by – I’m an ocean person. Having military facilities nearby would be nice because Brett is a retiree, and while we haven’t had anything to do with the military since he retired other than receiving retirement pay every month and using the health insurance, we figure it’s something we might need or want to use (like the commissary) as we grow old(er).

So far the list of possible areas to consider include:

  • Southern California (various locations)
  • The Southwestern United States (Arizona & New Mexico)
  • Hawaii
  • Florida

We also briefly considered living overseas, but the language and/or visa requirements are more than we want to take on at this point.

All of these locations have strikes against them, but we are just getting started on evaluating the plusses and minuses of each and have another year before we have to make a decision and then work toward making it happen. Our target date for moving is Summer 2014: Meiling will have graduated from high school and be heading to college, WenYu will have completed the equivalent of 4 years of high school Chinese and all math requirements, and YaYu will be transitioning between middle and high school.

Our number one goal at this point remains to pay off all our debt! We know a comfortable retirement isn’t going to happen until we accomplish that. Once we make a decision about where to settle we can come up with a further set of realistic goals for relocating.

What are your thoughts? Have we missed anyplace else we ought to consider? Is there something else we should be considering at this point while we look at the big picture?

(This post was first published April 26, 2011.)

10 thoughts on “Back to the Future: A Place in the Sun

  1. I think it showed a braveness to jump into retirement somewhere other than where you lived for 20 years and with two girls still at home. Even without kids I won’t get Mr S to move.

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    1. It worked for us because we were both ready for a change at the same time. I clearly remember the day I came down the stairs, my joints aching from the wet and cold – it had been gloomy and dreary for days on end – and seeing Brett downstairs and saying, “I don’t think I can do this anymore.” He said, “Funny, I was just thinking the same thing. We need to get out of here.” And so was born the idea that maybe we could leave and start over somewhere else. We were pretty good at that anyway, after doing years of moves when Brett was in the navy, so the thought of doing it again wasn’t as frightening to us as it might have been to others.

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      1. Ah, yes. Being a navy family, you would have been used to moving. I’ve always lived in Sydney, so never experienced a place where it is cold and wet and gloomy for days on end.

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      2. It took years before Portland’s gloomy weather affected me, but the last few years we lived there the seasonal depression grew worse and worse with each year. I know others though that love it, and it doesn’t affect them at all, but that wasn’t the case for me or Brett.

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  2. I think Hawaii is the perfect choice for y’all! Isn’ t it a shorter plane ride to Japan than it would be if you settled on the West coast? Plus, the girls all wanted y’all to settle there. I am debating where I actually want to retire. The northern part of the state, where I am from, one kid lives and so do my cousins, but it is somewhat colder, the middle part where two kids live and where I spent a lot of my adulthood, or the southern part, where I an now, somewhat close to beaches, and usually no snow. I am also looking at state next door but I am really too lazy to change my drivers license, so probably not. I go to Pensacola beach a good bit. What part of Florida were y’all thinking about back then?

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    1. Actually, although it seems closer here, the flight from Honolulu to Tokyo takes the same amount of time as it does from Portland or Seattle! That’s because you fly a straight line from Hawaii versus flying over a northern curve from the northwest.

      The girls fought us tooth and nail about moving here, but the two that stayed left for college feeling that our move here was the best thing that every happened to them. Meiling returned to Oregon after a few months (mainly to keep her residency for college), but she considered Hawaii home. It is a good place for us – not perfect, but it had the most of everything we were looking for.

      We researched a few places in Florida, but we concentrated on the St. Augustine area. Florida, however, was too far from Japan, and there were many other things we didn’t care for there (no state income tax, but other high taxes, for example).

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  3. Once you decide you want more sunshine, it’s easier to narrow down the choices. 🙂 And it makes a big difference to look at where your kids are or will end up. We came back from California because family is in the Midwest, but there are days when I really long for non-stop sunshine (or at least more than we have in winter). But so far, we are happy with our decision overall. And we both like four distinct seasons. The big items are ticked off for us here, and each location we have discussed came up short for some reason. We love Arizona, but neither of us love really hot weather. I guess having been raised in the Midwest, we prefer putting on another layer in winter to having to stay indoors all summer (which we would both have to do to tolerate the heat). We loved N. California, but the traffic and population density got to be a lot for us, not to mention the cost of living. So, as DH says, you pays your money, you takes your choice. LOL.

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    1. Sunshine stayed at the top of the list when we finally got around to ranking our choices – weather stayed the most important factor for us. I was not prepared for the amount of humidity here though, but have discovered that a lot of what we experienced before had to do with where we lived and where our house was situated. Knock on wood, but so far this time we have experienced little to no humidity because this time we have good airflow through the house, and the winds haven’t stopped. We’ll see how it goes this summer though.

      Hawaii surprised us and ticked off almost all the boxes – cost of living was the big negative, but we figured if it had everything else then we would figure out how to deal with the COL and we did. There are places in the state where I know we would not have made it (Honolulu and Maui, for example) but Kaua’i turned out to be great, although there are issues here as well.

      We seriously considered a move to N. California after we finished traveling, but we never could convince ourselves that it was right for us. Same for Arizona and New Mexico. We were looking forward to spending time in Mexico to see how we liked settling down and to give us more time to think about a landing place, but that ended up getting decided for us pretty quickly. We’re glad to be here, but it was a hard landing!

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  4. We too wanted sunshine after retirement. Luckily both of us were on the same page for that. We decided on southern Arizona. Yes, it was far from Boston where we had lived for 20 years. But having spent our entire lives on the east coast, we, like you, were ready for an adventure. So we packed it up and moved west. We have never looked back. The heat here in summer does not really bother us. You just have to get up really early and get outside!

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    1. We *seriously* considered moving to Arizona. We finally figured out though that we’d end up feeling about the hot summers there the way we did about the cold, wet Portland winters, and be stuck inside to stay cool (I have horrible memories of the summer heat from when I lived in Tucson year-round to attend UA). We could have afforded a house with a pool though . . . .

      Arizona is one of our favorite places to visit – I’ve been all over the state and there is so much to see and do there!

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