November 12, 2010

Do You Love Where You Live? Is That Important?

The cool weather has finally arrived in Phoenix. Warm sunny days and cool, clear nights for the next 5 months makes me almost forget the furnace of summer in the desert. Each day is simply gorgeous. Typically, we will get no rain until late December, so most days aren't even marred by clouds. The tourists have arrived in force clogging the streets, but making the resorts and restaurants happy. It is a fabulous time to live where I live.

That feeling made me wonder if most people feel the same way. Do you love where you live or do you simply live where you live? No place is perfect. But, there are certain factors that will determine whether you are content with the place you call home. Take a look at this list and we'll have a quick quiz at the end.

Number one on most lists is the presence of family and friends. If you have good relationships with your family members who live nearby it is likely you haven't given much thought to moving. Most of us will put up with a lot to be close to loved ones. Good friends are also important to how you feel about your home town. As we age it seems making new friends becomes more difficult. If you live close to people you genuinely like and can turn to when you need help that is another check mark in the plus column. 

The cost of living affects us all. This includes cost of housing, taxes, food, and energy. Some places are just more expensive to live than others. Southern California, Connecticut, The Bay area of northern California, and Scottsdale (!) are well above average in this regard. To love living in one of these places is to accept that fact and budget for it. Other parts of the country are relative bargins in these categories. If your budget is tight, the cost of living may play an important part in where you hang your hat.

Recreational opportunities. Being outside and enjoying nature is an important component of happiness for many. Being close to lakes for fishing or boating, having mountain trails to hike or bike, being able to play golf or tennis when you want is crucial to many. If you live in Manhattan I will assume this isn't a key priority for you. But, if you do live where you can't satisfy your nature fix on regular basis that could be a big deal.

Educational and cultural offerings. College towns or cities with major universities often rank high in resident satisfaction. The concerts, plays, lectures, community classes, and art exhibits that are usually part of educational institutions may be quite important to you. A symphony orchestra or venues to see live plays and musicals may be the parts of a community you need. Then, again, maybe you could care less. But, the lack of these opportunities may be troubling to you.

Transportation. If you don't like to drive or own a car, don't live in L.A. or Phoenix. Cars are the only reliable form of transportation in these cities. If you prefer public transportation or walking to get from here to there how does your town satisfy you? This could be a major factor in how happy you are living where you do.

Sporting and Entertainment activities. Some of us are happiest as spectators of professional or college sporting events. Others require a variety of soccer fields, horse trails, golf courses, or baseball diamonds for happiness. A good selection of movie theaters and restaurants is a necessity for some. Can you satisfy your interest in sports where you live? How about being entertained? Have you had to give up what you love because it simply isn't available?

Health care facilities. The Phoenix area is blessed with excellent medical facilities. There are two Mayo facilities in town, along with dozens of hospitals and specialized treatment centers. Several medical schools provide us with a better than average doctor-to-patient ratio. In many parts of the country the residents aren't so lucky. If you or a loved one has a medical condition that requires specialized treatment, odds are you will need to live where those options are available.

The weather. We all talk about it. We all complain about it. Yet, most of us tolerate wherever we call home. There are some folks who love to ice fish when it's 10 below zero. I know some guys who love to camp in the desert when it is over 100 degrees. Take away someone's ski trails and you'd be in trouble. Portland or Seattle can get mightily gloomy in the winter with month after month of rain and drizzle but both cities consistently rank as some of the most popular places to live.

Weather is something over which we have no control. Your only ability to affect the weather where you live is to move to where that weather isn't. Are you sensitive enough to your hometown's weather for it to make you unhappy. Or is it simply an irritant that doesn't change the way you feel about where you live?

Especially in retirement, moving is one of the most critical decisions you are likely to make. So, ask yourself this important question: "Am I unhappy with enough of the parts of where I live to consider a move?" Or, did reviewing the list above make me think, "This really isn't that bad, in fact I really kinda like where I am and I can tolerate the rest."

I love where I live, though come summer I've love to be in Oregon or Flagstaff. But, I have carefully considered what parts of living in Phoenix are deal-breakers. So far, those parts don't equal a move. I can say I love where I live. I am enjoying a Satisfying Retirement where i am.

How about you? What factors are keeping you where you are? What things that are missing are making you consider a relocation? Let us know. It's like the weather, we are all interested in how others address this issue.

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  1. "Cool weather in Phoenix?" I did not know there was such a thing :) Actually I have spent a good amount of time there off season and it is truly beautiful. It has all of the variables you identify and glad to hear you are enjoying it as you do. The only missing ingredient for me personally is the ocean - I can tolerate a little fog and cooler weather for a near proximity to the waves and the beach.

  2. You are right about the ocean. My wife and I both love being by the water. That's why we spent 20 years flying to a time share on the west coast of Florida. The Gulf isn't quite the same, but it is salt water. Hawaii also filled that need during nearly a dozen trips to the islands.

    So, now we look at pictures and remember (the reason behind the post of last week about looking through old photos).

    Have a great weekend, Dave.

  3. When I retired it was an easy decision to stay where we are because my wife is still working. We have discussed the future and for the time being, we plan to stay put. We don't have family in the area but it's where just about everything we want or need is located.

    A former coworker of mine couldn't wait to move from the coast into the Portland metro area upon retirement. He talked for nearly two years about how he was looking forward to "cultural options" the big city offered. I ran into him a few years ago and living in the big city only lasted just over a year; the last I heard is that they moved back to the coast! I guess that they missed home!!

  4. Sounds like a case of the grass is always greener (and in Portland it probably is). Wiser people than me suggest trying a place before committing to a move. Rent an apartment or condo or find a place to park your RV for a month a few times a year to experience the different seasons. See if the attractions really live up to their billing. Then you are making a decision based on facts and not emotion.

  5. We moved from Flagstaff to Kansas because there were no jobs to take us the last bit to retirement. My family is in Phoenix.
    I have a feeling we will be in Arizona within the next few years. Maybe the southern part of the state this time.
    I sure miss those cheap Hawaiian Airline flights- but I don't miss the worry over drinking water.

  6. Sounds like I might have you back as a neighbor, Janette.

    If you are concerned about the water issue, the southern part of the state may not be your best choice. Tucson gets virtually all its drinking water from ground water, and that will become an increasingly scare resource.

    Yes, the nice nonstop Phoenix to Honolulu and Maui flights are a bonus.

  7. We moved to north TX because our youngest daughter was playing softball at UTA near here and we wanted to be able to see her play. Then our other two daughters moved here with their families because of job opportunities. The winters here are great, although we all dread the summer heat!

    We like Arlington because it is close to the larger cities of Fort Worth and Dallas but it's still easy to get around in and offers all the conveniences you'd want. The cost of living is very low and the bad economy, which has affected so many areas, doesn't seem to be doing much damage here. Restaurants are full every night, sales tax revenue keeps coming in to keep parks, libraries and such going. Plus we can go to Ranger's games easily.

    One thing nice about north TX too is that you can get to a lake or out in the country within an hour so we can see the wildflowers in the spring and fall colors.

    Since I'm from Oregon and we lived there most recently before we moved back to TX, I do miss the mountains but I travel back twice a year to see family. The gloomy economy in Oregon makes me glad I don't still live there. It's pretty depressing.

  8. Joan,

    Over the years I had clients in 8 different Texas cities and agree North Texas was my favorite part. It is clean and easy to navigate the freeways. Dallas is a great city and I'm very familiar with Arlington. For a brief period I had an office near DFW.

    I imagine the transition from the green and mountains of Oregon to Texas took some time to get used to. But, your comment proves it was a wise one for you to make.

  9. How about Nebraska? Could it be the weather? .... the variety of the yearly range between -15 degree wind chill in the winter and 100 degrees and high humidity in the summer? :--)

    It's been all about family, and it has been fantastic! Parents, sisters, nieces, and nephews all nearby with frequent get togethers ... but now the kids are elsewhere .... Boston, NYC, and Madrid .... we'll see how that effects our adventures.

    And, in fairness to our great state, I hasten to add we have a friendly and supportive community full of goodwill and hospitality .... come visit us anytime, and Go Big Red!

  10. J,

    I had a client for awhile in Omaha. I always looked forward to the visit. The airport was easy to navigate and the people I worked with were extremely open and friendly.

    Your comment fits the point of the post perfectly. Someone else might wonder why you'd be in Nebraska, but you made it clear: family, hospitable people, and (usually) a great football team in Lincoln!

    Now with your kids in other parts of the country, what will happen? My only advise as a total outsider is to consider any change very carefully. Moving companies make a lot of money from retirees who move to be close to their children, only to miss familiarity and friends enough to move back in rather short order.

    Since ASU has no hope of anything this year, I'll throw my support to Nebraska over Kansas for tonight's game. Go Huskers!

  11. I live in the Boulder, Colorado area. I love the scenery and hiking, but hate the cold winters that usually start in October and last until May. This year we had a beautiful October and early November with just one small snow so far, but I dread the long, cold days to come.

    Once I'm an empty nester, I'd like to live in Phoenix for during the cold season and come back to Boulder for the warm weather. Of course, figuring out how to manage two residences will be a challenge!

    I know there are a lot of Snow Birds that live in Arizona for the winters. Any advice on the best way to do this financially?

  12. Hi Yvette,

    I'd like to figure how to spend summer in a cooler place like Flagstaff or Boulder. So far, I haven't done it, so I just ignore the heat and stay indoors most of the summer (like you probably do in the winter). Actually, I have gotten to the point where the heat doesn't really bother me, until late September when I've had enough.

    Many snowbirds rent an apartment in Phoenix for the winter. Some live in an RV or own a condo or home. Financially, if I discover the answer I will post it here first!

    Actually, The way I will manage it is to shave unessentials from my regular budget and use the savings to fund my time out of town.

  13. We moved to Bastrop, a small town between Houston and Austin in Texas, with grown daughters and their famllies in those two larger cities. We like the small town life, especially since our small town has an active music and community theater scene. Two state parks are nearby and the Colorado River runs through town, so mountain biking and kayaking opportunities abound. Many other retirees are flocking to our little town, too.

  14. Linda,

    Bastrop sounds beautiful. In fact, I looked at the web site for the town and it is lovely. It sounds as though you have found the perfect place.

  15. While I agree that friends and family are a MAJOR factor, I have also found out that....sadly...friends, and family have their own agendas and move, die or fade away, and so I cannot plan my future based on their availability.

    My wonderful children are building their careers, and will be moving for the next 10-15 years, we can't follow them as they skip, I know that when we move from our town of 30 years,we will have to work hard to build new friendships. I believe it can be done. There are enough strategies for doing this to fill an entire page. for choosing a place to live.....

    I want to live in a place that has beauty. For some it is the Ocean, for some the desert, etc. For us, it is the mountains. I want to see mountains, stars at night, and see birds during the day. I want peace, and clean air to breath.

    Safety...of course. A tough urban environment is not for us. We'll trade the exciting city for the peaceful exurbs.

    An airport....within an easy we can visit those kids....and they can visit us.

    Healthcare...a good major hospital, to use, and maybe to join as teachers ( we are docs).

    University access. A major school offers just about anything you could desire...sports, education, entertainment...and for us...teaching opportunities if we choose to commit.

    Recreation....we figure we have until our 80s to continue skiing, hiking,biking,kayaking,snow-shoeing. There is a golf course, but we would have to learn to play (never had time for it) I guess we can golf when we are older.. Also, when we do get visitors, we won't just sit around telling the same old stories.....we will have things for them to do. They can even golf if they want.

    Weather...My wife is a California girl, so a cold winter place is out. Also, weeks of gray skies make her depressed, so the Pacific Northwest is out. As for me, I love the cold...and could live in Maine....but I wouldn't dream of making my wife endure those winters. I DO NOT like the Arizona, Texas (Too flat anyway) and other desert locations are out. I can live with humidity, but don't love a lot of bugs. While the weather is great , California has gotten too crowded and crazy. We are lucky enough to be able to pick and choose and so we think we have found a place that fits all our needs, close to Reno, Nevada. No place is you said!

    Of course, where ever you choose must be a good fit for all parties involved. I wouldn't live in Eden if my wife hated gardens!

    I will miss my buddies keenly. I don't think we will lose track of each other. That's what cars, planes and computers are for. I will have to find another "geezer rock band" to make noise with. We will miss our church and our neighbors. On the flip exciting to think of gathering a whole new group of friends!

    From a selfish standpoint, I encourage you to continue writing. I enjoy your blog very much!

    PS...Just wait until you can play that guitar with some friends.....then it is REALLY fun!

  16. Keith,

    Wow, you covered all the bases and very well. You and your wife have obviously given this a lot of thought and know each other well enough to find the best mix of features.

    Reno has everything you have described, though a bit nippy in the winter for my tastes. Lake Tahoe is one of my favorites spots in the country.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond and the encouraging comments in your companion e-mail. I have every intention of writing this blog as far into the future as I can.

  17. We are thinking about relocating. We live in the Sierra foothills near Sacramento, mainly because my last job was here. We bought a new house and got to pick the features we like so my wife is happy finally but we don't have any fondness for Sacramento or inland NoCal.
    I love the coast but I am not sure that California has a future with high taxes, irresponsible spending and fleeing businesses. Maybe it won't matter for retirement.
    If we just wanted to live less expensively, there are lots of places but if we want the coast we are limited.
    We are going slow. Maybe our first step will be some long visits in likely places to see how they feel.

  18. Long visits to likely places is an excellent idea. Visiting during different seasons allows you to get a real feel for the pros and cons.

    Your comment of "going slow" is the best advise for anyone thinking about any major decision like a move.

    Thanks, Ralph.


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