Updated: Jul 8
Landing in the wrong place could unravel a good retirement plan.
I have been fortunate to live in some fairly exotic places during the course of a very rewarding 35+ year hospitality career. Having a robust network of contacts delivered opportunity very early on, beginning with a posting in Barcelona and including other postings in Lisbon, London, Madrid and Miami. I now reside in Washington, DC and could not be happier being here during the ‘relaunch’ phase of my life.
I have been asked many times which of these places was the more enjoyable. That is an impossible question to answer, on the same level as which has been my favorite vacation destination. There are pluses and minuses associated with every place I have lived (and visited) that make answering either question in a definitive way very challenging.
I often get asked the same question about retirement, e.g., where would be the dream retirement location? For a very long time, this was definitively going to be British Columbia (BC), specifically Vancouver. We had visited there several times over the last 20 years and fell in love with the blend of cultures, the genuinely nice people and the mix of blue water and green landscape. The gastronomy and fishing are also world-class in BC.
We even went as far as investing in a condominium in the early 2000s in anticipation of the prospect of retiring to Vancouver. It was a lovely place on the 18th floor of a modern, steel and glass high rise that overlooked the False Creek and Granville Island. It seemed idyllic at the time.
But like many of our thoughts or expectations regarding retirement, the priorities changed over time and ultimately Vancouver proved not such a good idea for retirement. To begin with, the Pacific time zone is not ideal for global communication (my wife has family in both Asia and Europe who she speaks with almost daily). More importantly, the tax burden for Canadian residence versus the USA was not at all accommodating and would have stretched us in terms of our retirement nest egg.
Thankfully, we took our time and considered the options for a retirement home, which is in line with what we have done relative to our overall retirement planning. I have heard many stories of people who visit a place on holiday and become enamored with prospects of retiring there, only to find that they have isolated themselves from family and friends, or worse, find it not so ideal as a permanent residence. So, they have potentially left a place where they were happy to go to apparently greener pastures that do not turn out to be so appealing!
In the current climate of record low housing inventory, this mistake could prove very costly. If you exit an agreeable situation in exchange for the dream retirement situation that proves otherwise, then what do you do? It could be some time before you can return to the original starting point. An unforeseen higher cost of living could also put the carefully considered retirement plan at risk.
The best thing is not to idealize the dream retirement destination, but rather give it as much thoughtful consideration as the overall retirement goal. And maybe take a six month sabbatical to that dream destination to appropriately align your expectations.