Retiring in Hawaii: Pros & Cons (Part 3)

This week’s positive and negative factors for retiring in Hawai’i both concern housing. If you’re retiring and plan on buying a house, in spite of extremely high prices there is some good news; if you need specialized housing, the news is not so good.

PRO: Houses in Hawai’i are an extremely costly proposition these days. However, Hawaii property taxes are still fairly low (we are frankly amazed by how low they are in Hawaii compared to other states), and senior homeowners receive additional exemptions on their taxes. Back when we were considering buying, because our ages our annual property taxes would have only been around $150! Currently, all Hawaiian homeowners receive a $160,000 tax exemption on their home but seniors 60 and over receive the following exemptions.

  • $180,000 for ages 60 to 79.
  • $200,000 for age 80 and above

Every little bit helps!

The old Lihue theater has been refurbished and repurposed as low-income senior housing.

CON: Inexpensive elderly housing and assisted living can be difficult to find in Hawaii, especially if you need it sooner rather than later. Housing for seniors, government subsidized or otherwise, exists on most of the islands and as might be expected, most of it is in Honolulu. However, space in these places is limited, they can be costly, and it can take years to gain a spot in a government-subsidized housing facility. We know of three retirement/senior living facilities on Kauai, although there may be more. One is a full-scale retirement and assisted living center in Lihue. It is fairly new and is also very expensive. Another housing option for low-income retirees is the old Lihue theater, which has been remodeled and turned into subsidized one-bedroom apartments for seniors, a very clever way to save and utilize a historic building. There are income limits to qualify for one of these apartments, and our income is too high. Another senior housing complex exists in Kalaheo, near where we live, but we again have too high an income to qualify. I’ve recently seen openings advertised on Craigslist – when we lived here before I never once saw an ad – the only notice I ever saw was an announcement on the theater marquis.

In Hawaii, it’s very common for extended family to live together and manage care for elderly family members, possibly with help from the community. Continuing home health care is a frequently used option for seniors here, and Kapuna Care (kapuna = grandparent, ancestor, or honored elderly), funded by the State of Hawaii, allows seniors to stay in their homes and provides assistance with daily living activities. Other private companies and services exist as well to help elders remain in their homes or with family.

While not the only reason, current housing costs play a major role in our decision not to remain in Hawaii, as does the lack of options on Kaua’i for senior care, which may be needed in the future.


8 thoughts on “Retiring in Hawaii: Pros & Cons (Part 3)

  1. Continuing care is an issue everywhere. My mom lives in a ten bedroom house with one elder in each room. 24 hour care. The cost is wayyyy past our budget- close to $75k a year! I think this issue is the single most troubling one for middle class boomers.


    1. This is a huge concern for us, especially if I outlive Brett, and we have found no solutions yet. It’s definitely too expensive for us here, but doesn’t seem to be a whole lot better elsewhere either.

      I would like to say I find the amount you pay for your mother’s care unbelievable, but unfortunate it’s all too believable these days. Using savings, veteran’s benefits, Social Security and Medicare, my mother was able to afford paying for her own care in assisted living, but it completely drained her accounts. We won’t be able to do that.


  2. I totally understand. LT care is so expensive everywhere. I am hoping this administration will address it eventually and put some limits and safeguards with regard to our elderly. I would like to see home health expanded to 24 hour care so seniors can age in place as much as possible. That may be an unreasonable dream of mine.


    1. This is the part of aging that scares me the most, because it’s such a huge unknown and completely unaffordable for us. We’d like to stay in our home, wherever that turns out to be, and our military insurance will cover medically-necessary in-home care, but not help with daily living activities. 24-hour home care would be a dream, but unlikely to ever happen.


  3. Living expenses are so high everywhere for the elderly. I just spent the week with my 89 yo mother, and one thing she wanted me to do was go over her expenses with her again. She is in an independent living apartment (actually a small townhome, attached garage, etc) with assisted living options in the development should she need them. Unfortunately, when her husband died, the costs dropped a pittance and all other expenses continued. It’s a nice place, but the rent includes meals that she finds heavily weighed with carbs, and the included cleaning service is subpar. I appreciate the pull chain for any problems, but I really wish they had a way to deduct the meals (which she has cancelled) and the cleaning. I would happily pay my niece to clean for her and we’d have a clean apartment and a lower rent. But for now, it’s her best option. I’m learning a lot through her experience though.


    1. My mom lived in a very nice retirement community, first in independent living and then assisted living. It was a wonderful place, she was well known and cared for, but eventually had to move to another location at the end of her for memory care and hospice. The cost of these places drained almost every bit of savings she had, and she worried incessantly about what would happen to her if/when she ran out of savings. Her experience was a learning experience for all of us. Brett’s mom, who had no savings, had a very different experience from. my mom, and that was a learning experience of a different kind as well. I hope Brett and I can remain in our home for as long as possible, hopefully eventually near (but not with) one of our children, and receive some kind of home care, but with the way things are going that may be a pipe dream.


  4. My mother was in a not for profit nursing home prior to her death. If she had lived, the cost would have been $8,250 per month or 99,000 per year. My 90 year old father needs full time care but refuses to go into a nursing home. I am there every day, all day to provide wound care and personal care. At night he is on his own. We had home health care after his recent hospital stay. It lasted two weeks before I canceled. They did nothing, no physical therapy, cheapest bandages available and I was still doing everything. All they did was show up once per week to take vitals and ask a bunch of questions. Complete waste of time. Now I am trying to get him back in physical therapy and checking into the costs for companion care. My mother was quoted $27.50 to $29.50 per hour but that may have involved a higher level of care ( not sure) Those kind of costs would give even a wealthy person pause.


    1. Those figures you quote scare me to death – not-for-profit and $8250 month is completely unaffordable. Your father is very fortunate to have you nearby, and doing so much. Back in the day I used to do home health care now and again, but I was busy all the time doing stuff. These costs are actually above college costs now, which are up in the stratosphere. You can either pay for your kids to go to college, or save everything and hope you have enough for when you are old.


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