January 16, 2018 — Late in 2018 we published a series of Best Places to Retire lists for four U.S. regions. They were based on popularity – the 20 towns and cities in each region that had the most online visits at Topretirements. To kick off the new year we are picking the “2019 best of the best” from those 80 – the 10 retirement towns that we think are the best places to retire. While the original 80 made it because of popularity, these 10 represent our subjective best places selections. Some of the factors we weighed were cultural and recreational opportunities, climate, expense, taxes, the quality of the downtowns, and beauty. Obviously, your personal criteria might make for a different list. (Note that we did not include active adult communities on this list, which meant that places like The Villages did not get included).
1. Asheville, NC Asheville is a prosperous small city of just over 75,000 in the Blue Ridge mountains of western North Carolina. The downtown is filled with cafes, restaurants, and art deco buildings. Because it is in the mountainous part of the state it tends to have 4 seasons. The surrounding area has other towns popular with retirees, along with a huge number of 55+ and active adult communities.
2. Sarasota, FL. Some consider this thriving city midway down the Gulf Coast to be the cultural capital of Florida, after Miami. Sarasota has a great downtown with many interesting neighborhoods. An impressive array of cultural facilities is available in Sarasota. Barrier islands like Siesta offer great beaches and developments where retirees can put their feet up.
(Note: this is the first of a 2 part series on Costa Rica. The second will focus on expat retirement in the country. ) January 13, 2019 — Does your retirement include a bucket list trip to Costa Rica, one of the world’s greatest ecotourism destinations? This Central American country, situated north of Panama and south of Nicaragua, has an incredible array of attractions that bring in tourists from all over the world. But unlike more traditional vacation spots where the places to visit are fairly obvious (think Paris or Normandy in France) Costa Rican tourism is complex. The choices of where to visit can be difficult to figure out. This article will tell you what to expect if you go, what your options are, and how to plan and book your trip.
Costa Rica snapshot Costa Rica (CR) has long coastlines on two sides – the Pacific on the west and the Caribbean to the east. The country has a very stable democratic government and a prosperous economy based mainly on tourism, technology, and agriculture. It has no army; that was abolished in 1948. The climate is tropical with a rainy season from mid-September through December. The terrain is quite mountainous with peaks over 10,000′; it can get quite cool in those areas. The terrain goes from very dry areas on the west coast to cloud and rain forests further east.
January 1, 2018 – What better time of the year to think about this project than the first day of a New Year. Josh Walker over at NextAvenue.org wrote about their 2016 Facebook challenge to create a very short memoir. The challenge was to write down in six words or less a phrase that summarizes your life or philosophy. While a touch narcissistic, is a very good way to reflect on who you are right now, what you have accomplished, what and who you care about. Better than that, it is a chance to mindfully consider how you want to change.
January 1, 2019 — We’ve heard it said before that new parents shouldn’t have their new babies released to them until they have passed a child rearing class. Something similar might be said for retirees – retirement is far too important a project to undertake without some education and training. With that said we are undertaking a multipart online training class on retirement preparation. As we imagine it, this online course will be good for people to take years before they actually pull the retirement trigger. We also hope is that it might provide refresher training for those who are already enjoying their retirements. Please let us know what you think of the idea!
At this point we are not sure how many modules the course will contain – that will determined by your reactions. The course will have several elements that we hope you find fun and helpful. For example, the Comments sections will include some discussion questions. There might be some simple assignments like filling in checklists, or drafting a note to your partner outlining some part of your retirement dream. And there will be at least a couple of quizzes you can fill out online and check how well you are doing. If you complete the course you can send us a note and we will send you a “Certificate of Completion” for your edification.
December 24, 2018 — (this is a continuation of our “Time to Retire Retirement” Series.) Part 1 of this series starts with the idea that since people are living active lives much longer than what used to be retirement age, the idea of retirement might need to be reconsidered. In this edition we want to focus on the difficulties that older workers have if they decide to take up on that idea – postponing or maybe never retiring. An article from the Wall St. Journal, “Booming Employment Market Can’t Fill the Retirement Shortfall“, has some very sobering information on older people who would like to remain in the workplace.
The number of older Americans are out of work or stuck in low-quality jobs is large, almost 8 million. Over 5 million of those do not have health insurance. Adding to retirement savings or improving their earning record for Social Security in a meaningful way is difficult for them. Even for those who do manage getting another job, their earnings after a period of unemployment will likely suffer. Whereas workers under (more…)
December 19, 2018 — Retirement is not always perfect, even for the people who are the most prepared for it. Our Member surveys indicate that most of the people who visit this website are very satisfied with their retirement, but there is almost always room for improvement. So when saw a recent survey from Global Atlantic that listed the top three retirement regrets, we were curious. Particularly, we wanted to compare the regrets in that survey with the results from our own surveys, asking about retirement satisfaction. After you read our comparison we hope you will all provide us comments about your retirement regrets and concerns (as well as what is great about it)!
The survey from Global Atlantic was concerned mostly with financial regrets. Our surveys were broader than that, exploring all types of concerns and worries, not just financial. Note that there is a semantic differences between regrets and concerns, although both have negative connotations. Regrets seem to be about the past, and concerns/worries are more present and future.
December 12, 2018 — This is Part 1 of a 2 Part Series. Part 2, “Older Workers Face Bleak Employment Prospects“, describes the problem along with some strategies to overcome them. Back when the concept of retirement became institutionalized, our live expectancies were nothing like what they are now. When Social Security came into being in 1935 the retirement age was set at 65, but the odds were that if you made it that far you wouldn’t be collecting long. During the Great Depression of the 1930’s life expectancy for men was 59 and 63 for women: for people born in 2018 the expectancies are 83 and 86.
Although not everyone over 65 is healthy, vigorous, and mentally sharp, millions of us are. Which leads many experts to propose that in the face of a tightening employment market, employers should consider putting the whole idea of retirement on hold. This excellent article in Nautilus, “Retiring Retirement: A Growing Portion of the Elderly Look Anything But”, explains the growing phenomenon of people who are not acting their age, and the reasons why they should be more gainfully employed.
The authors give some wonderful examples. One of their fathers-in-law, a 97 year old retired Air Force Colonel, is posed in (more…)
December 11, 2018 — December 31 is the deadline for taking a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from your 401(k) or IRA if you are older than 70 and 1/2 (but if you turned 70 and 1/2 this year you have until April 1). Fines for not doing so are steep – 50% of the required distribution not taken. Because it might take several days for your financial firm to handle the distribution, it is definitely time to make sure you do this now!
Tax savings available
For people with substantial income and retirement saving balances, the taxes on an RMD can be significant – because it is treated as ordinary income. If you already have pension, investment income, and Social Security income, the RMD could tip you into a higher bracket. But there is an easy way not to pay taxes on up to $100,000 of your annual RMD.
You can take a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) by directly transferring funds from your IRA custodian to a qualified (more…)
December 5, 2018 — This is Part 2 of our report on our recent Snowbird Survey. Part 1, “Florida is Favorite Snowbird Destination“, contained the detailed results on the survey’s first 9 questions. This installment is mostly made up of verbatim comments detailing where people snowbird to, and how they get there. Because these are actual comments from real people on this issue, we think you will find it a great source of ideas and comparisons to your own thoughts and experiences.
This article has three sections: Section 1 will start will overall observations, Section 2 is a sampling of 351 overall comments made to Question 10, “Anything More to Say”, and Section 3 has a link to all 166 comments made to Question 8, “How Hard Was It to Find a Place to Snowbird”.
Section 1: Observations Driving vs. Flying. More people drive to their snowbird destination than fly; the ratio is about 3 to 1 in favor of driving. Top reasons for driving include: having a car at the destination, more room for stuff, taking pets, and visiting/exploring on the way are . Avoiding a multi-day, long drive is a top reason for flying. Many people who fly either keep a car at the destination, or have the car driven down.
East vs. West snowbirds. As is usually the case with Topretirements surveys, the majority of our audience is east coast based, mostly from the Northeast or Midwest. Although there were some folks who cross the Mississippi to either (more…)
December 3, 2018 — One of the intriguing lines that came up during the interviews for our “Should You Hire a Financial Advisor, Or Do It Yourself” article of a few months ago was this one: “Beware those free dinners”. Lewis, the author of that quote, was referring to those invites you get in the mail for a free dinner at some nice restaurant; in exchange all you have to do is listen to some financial expert tell you how you can make a ton of money. Recently Ron Lieber, a columnist from the New York Times, took up that invitation, using one that came in for his 80 year aunt. The pitch was: “Tired of the stock market roller coaster ride? Want to protect your principal and lock in interest earnings?” The answer was to be found during a free (more…)