Retirement Housing Decisions You Want To Avoid

John Ross & Lisa Shoalmire Retirement , , , , , ,

Growing older is full of challenges but the alternative is no good.




Lisa and I both had several folks recently that were making some life changes, and some involved their living situations.


They were either:

  • by necessity having to make some dramatic living changes
  • or looking down the road towards their retirement and making changes related to their living environments


What all’s out there in the world of retirement living


So we wanted to talk about what all’s out there in the world of retirement living.


I always have news stories coming through my feed on seniors and retirements.


And all of a sudden what popped into my news feed was this beautiful, lush looking, tropical, artistic rendering of a retirement community.


It had palm trees and swimming pools and kind of a cabana feel.


And you know who was coming out with that retirement community?


Jimmy Buffett, the ‘tropical minstrel’ himself.


So, Jimmy Buffett, he’s in his 70s.


And he had his super-mega hit, Margaritaville. And of course, Jimmy Buffett has his Margaritaville restaurants.


He turned that one song into an industry.


And he’s got casinos.


Casinos, restaurants, clothing, all kinds of merchandising.


Jimmy Buffett is rollin’ up into his 70s, and that means a lot of those “Parrotheads” are also rollin’ up.


The next evolution of the Margaritaville brand


… is now looking like it’s going to be retiree housing.


A retirement community …in Florida.


Apparently the land has been purchased. The illustration that I saw was an artist rendering of what they intend for it to look like.


They’re expecting to have that up and going within a couple years.


Construction’s about to start.


And the article I read about this Jimmy Buffett retirement community is they’re wanting to keep that laidback vibe.


Of course.


Although if it’s a retirement community, it should be laidback.


He is intending to compete with one of the most well known retirement communities down there in Florida called The Villages.


And The Villages… it’s pretty swanky. I’ve been there.


So Jimmy Buffet says – Well, hey, we can do it just as well as The Villages, but maybe not so stuffy.


And so if any of you are thinking about relocating to Florida, then Jimmy Buffett ‘s retirement community is on your list.


But what I wanna know…


I saw the pool renderings and the cabana.


Are they gonna have a margarita machine always on?


I guess the interesting thing about this though, is that they have so many of amenities, grocery stores, barber shops. Just everything.


You have just this gigantic campus that has everything that you would ever need.


And all you need to drive is a golf cart.


But it brings up some interesting points.


There’s a lot to think about as you’re approaching retirement. Especially if you’re thinking about changing locations.



What you shouldn’t have done


We wanted to talk about some things that you should definitely keep in mind as you’re talking about different transitions.


Some things you need to keep in the back of your head, some things to look out for, and maybe some things not to do.


Because often our experiences are based on the, “What you shouldn’t have done”, experiences that are presented to us.


The – here’s what we did and here’s how badly it went wrong.


Should I move into one of these places?


I think I certainly would consider it. I like the idea of… I’m big on downsizing, and getting rid of the clutter and thinning out all the junk.


It just brings you some peace. Some calm.


Yeah. I find some chi, some zen, in getting rid of all the junk and narrowing it down.


The idea of moving into a smaller environment where most of the resources that I need are around me, the things that I need… you  just don’t have to worry about anything.


Some might say it sounds like Disneyland for seniors.


That is pretty much what they try to be.


As attitudes change, you might find that there’s no more market for them


All sorts of options are available in a lot of these communities.


You can have anything from a town home to a patio home that shares common walls. Everything to what I call standalone site-built homes. On the back of the golf course.


Swimming pools and therapy pools, and shuffleboard courts and putt-putt and radio… This was one of my favorites. The radio-controlled airstrip.


All those amenities are right there.


Yeah, there’s certainly something to be said for that.


Now, obviously that’s not gonna be for everybody, and there’s certainly a lot of factors that you would wanna consider.


Particularly with those sort of things, where you’re often making a very big move.

  • You’re moving many states away.
  • You’re often gonna be very far away from family, which in many cases can be a fantastic thing.
  • But as needs increase and things like that, that lack of familial support around you can be a problem.
  • The other thing is that often when that person passes away, you end up with this asset.


… in one of these communities.


As attitudes about these things change, you might find that now there’s no more market for them.


These communities for the most part, these dedicated communities like Jimmy Buffet’s building. They are a 55 and older community.


Which I think that’s hilarious, it’s 55 and this is a senior community.


But hey, it’s 55 and older.


If the senior passes away, and all the family, they have lives elsewhere and they don’t even meet the age requirement yet.


So what does that asset do for them?


Particularly if the market has changed, or the attitudes have changed and you can’t sell it.


Now you have an asset that you can’t use and can’t get rid of.


And, you still get to pay all of the community fees to upkeep all those wonderful amenities.


That can certainly become a burden.


Destination Retirement Communities – Not for Everyone


The main topic of this article, however, is about some other choices that we want you to keep in mind.


A little closer to home.



We’re talking about some different kinda housing options, or living arrangements. Things to consider.


They are not going to be for most people.


If you’ve got a little tickling of an idea, you should always go explore it.  One thing about those destination retirement communities, is that everybody shows up brand new.


What I learned from my dad’s experience was that you make friends pretty easily. Everybody’s new.


You end up with a nice support group of friends.


But when an illness strikes, or a health crisis comes along, you don’t have that family support.


So that’s really a deal breaker.


Also you’re not there day-to-day to see those grandchildren, or great-grandchildren grow and mature.


So destination retirement community living is not for everyone.


There are some things to think about if you’re talking about looking for the right place to retire.


Lots of people have a good relationship with their grandkids, or their kids, and they wanna be a part of their grandkids’ lives.


That said, almost universally, you’ve got to be very careful about following your kids.


 My kids live down in Austin


If you think, “Oh well, my kids live down in Austin, that’s where they work. I’m thinking I’m gonna move to Austin so that I can be around those grandkids, and be a bigger part of their life.”


The theory behind that sounds pretty good.


The problem is, oftentimes you’re talking about moving into a major metropolitan area like an Austin, or a Houston, or something like that.


Where the jobs are.


Where those high-powered jobs are.


But your cost of living is gonna go up quite a bit. Plus you get a lot of the travel issues, even locally where you’re having to deal with large city traffic, things like that.


The biggest problem is mobility.


One of the reasons that most advisors will tell you not to follow the children is because the working generations now are much more mobile than the generations that are retiring today.


The baby boomers who are retiring worked one or two jobs throughout their working career.


They bought the house. They paid on that mortgage for 30 years.


And then lived in it for another 10 after that.


But, yeah, you went to work for the plant, you worked your way up through the plant.


If that plant closed, maybe you went to the other plant in town and worked at the other plant, but in any case, you worked at that same job.


Maybe even a professional, you worked as a CPA for the CPA firm, but you just worked for that one firm. This is just not the case anymore.


It’s likely that in any given circumstance, you follow your kids all the way down to Austin thinking that you’re gonna be there. You set-up roots and then, poof, they’re getting transferred to Seattle.


I think the statistics are that a person coming out of college today or starting in the workforce can expect to change jobs something like 12 times.


And the likelihood that those are all in the same community are pretty slim.


Even if your child gets another job in that same metropolitan area, they may end up moving because of the commute.


There’s all kinds of issues.


And if you are now retired and you have your fixed income sources and your savings, moving is an expense.


And selling a property, buying a property, you don’t have a company paying for it.


No.  And, so it can be very difficult.


No Support Structure Beyond Your Kids


Although it’s nice that you’ve got the kids as a support structure there, it turns out that’s the only support structure you have. You don’t have the friends and the contacts that you had back in your local community.


When the kids do leave, or something happens to them, you find yourself orphaned out there in the middle of nowhere. Some place that you’re very unfamiliar with.


That can cause a lot of stress and a lot of strain.


It’s usually much easier for them to come back to you than it is for you to go try and chase them around.


As you contemplate retirement, you might be contemplating that you’ve always wanted:

  • to have that little piece of heaven
  • the fields that you could walk out on your back deck
  • in your PJs
  • no neighbors around to see
  • you can view the fields and the trees.


Yeah, your nice little 40 acres or 100 acres out there, maybe with a pond on it.


So you start thinking. That means a more rural choice in lifestyle and housing, and we’ve seen that choice.


And it’s wonderful while someone is young enough, and active enough, and able enough:

  • to take care of that property
  • to enjoy that property
  • to be able to walk down and go fishing at the pond


Unfortunately, we deal with families who didn’t see us during all those enjoyment years, they were active and going.


It’s All Good Until It’s Not


But now that maybe there’s a crisis. A lot of times we’re talking to families because we’ve got adult kids who live in the big city.


They’re realizing that mom and dad in the rural setting are having limitations in the services they can get there.


I visited with a family recently. They retired. They bought a farm about 40 miles outside of town. They’ve really enjoyed it, it’s on about 75 acres.


They used to run some cows and stuff. About 10 years ago, that got to be a bit much.


So they started leasing out the pasture land, and there was about a good 20 acres or 30 acres around the house that the husband was still maintaining.


The husband would get out and go brush hoggin’ and commune with nature.


He was doing his little thing out there. Then he had some recent health issues.


One of the things the doctor told him was, “No more.”


No more sitting out there for hours on that tractor.


No more on the tractor, not even riding the little riding lawnmower around the yard. No more of that business.


Or somebody was gonna find him dead of a heart attack out there.


They were taking care of their property, they like it a certain way.


They checked in with some folks to see how much would it cost for someone else to come out and maintain their property in the same manner that they liked it.


In their case, it came out to be about $15,000 a year to maintain the property in the same way they were maintaining it.


The grass keeps growing.


Their living environment was based on their income and assets. And part of their calculations in all of that had not included $15,000 for…outside maintenance.


The other thing that came with this health event was routine medical checkups. Lots of coming in for cardiac rehabilitation work.


Spending time at a rehab on a routine basis, and things like that.


As I mentioned, they’re 40 miles outside of town.

It Never Really Dawned on Them


Yeah, it’s a beautiful piece of country. But, man, that’s getting to be a long commute every day. Or every other day. And so, they were far away from their medical providers.


They couldn’t maintain the place. And so… It seems like this came as a surprise to them.


They had this concept that this was going to be where they were gonna go.


It never really dawned on them.


And so, they hadn’t thought about what other alternatives are out there.


They were really kind of in a pickle now, because it’d come down to the wire.


They were gonna have to make some changes, or spend a bit more money do something.


Do you have the kinda support structure that can come in and help maintain it, if you can’t?


And if not, what are going to be your alternatives?


And it seems like, in their case, they had not ever gone through the concept of, “Where are we gonna go next?”


And so they were having to do it almost in a crisis scenario. And in their case, there were some differences of opinions.

What’s our next dream?


The wife was kinda saying, “Hey, why don’t we go to one of these continuing care retirement communities?”


“Let’s just sell the whole mess off, and move into one of these places where we can have a little house. Then, we can move from there into the assisted living, and there, into a nursing home, as our life takes us.”


And, the husband… the husband was not into that.


Especially if you’re a married couple, some things you might wanna be talking about, “Hey, this is our combined dream here, at 65. But when this dream becomes… A little more than we can handle. A little more of a nightmare… Then what’s our next dream?”


Make sure you’re on the same page.


How much of that parental love is there?


Luckily, for this family, as those challenges became more difficult, one of their children moved south to live across the street.


That was very nice of them.


It was nice. But, wow.


And so now this child is thinking, “I left my friends and everything I knew and grew up with to come help mom and dad. Now they’ve been in and out of the hospital and it looks like we’re gonna need some more intense care.”


But the child was not all that happy in the rural Texas community as opposed to their home city.


Yeah, no, it was only the bonds of parental love that were holding this family member helping mom and dad. So it was pretty difficult.


You better think about exactly how much of that parental love there is.


Your housing choices are going to directly impact your remaining years


Generally speaking, the people that we talk to want to age in their own home.


They want to not be a burden on their family.


They don’t wanna go broke trying to get through this process.


And your housing choices through retirement are going to directly impact all three of those things.


It’s huge.


If you live in a multi-level home that has a little six inch dropdown from the kitchen to the den, and then to the family room…


That place is going to become a nightmare at some point if you’re having mobility issues.


So you’ve got to look around.


Either you’re not gonna be able to go to that home, and you’re gonna end up in an institutional setting.


Or you’re going to burden friends and family as they try to figure out how to build 15 ramps around your house so that you can get from one place to another.


A lot of people can hardly conceive sometimes of changing their housing situation.


They paid off that 30-year mortgage or they’ve been very happy, they have wonderful memories, it’s very nostalgic in that home.


Well, it’s the American Dream, of buildin’ and buyin’ that house, and gettin’ it paid for.



You can’t predict how everything is gonna go


The housing choice, second maybe only to lifestyle choices like smoking, has the biggest impact on navigating retirement years.

  • Look at the location of where the house is.
  • What’s your accessibility to things like a grocery… How can you get to a grocery store and back…
  • Without major traffic snarls…
  • Can you get to your healthcare providers in the same way?
  • How close are you to support structures?
  • Not necessarily family but friends.
  • Are you in a community that you’ve had a long association with, or is this someplace new?
  • And lastly, are you gonna be able to change this decision as life changes?


All of these things are gonna have an impact.


Because the one thing is: you can’t predict how everything is gonna go.


And since you can’t predict how everything is gonna go, ultimately, you’re gonna have to come up with some alternatives.


“Well you know what? This is our dream retirement, we’re moving to Margaritaville.”


Let’s go.


We’re moving to Margaritaville. And now, if we can’t stay here in Margaritaville, then…


Then what’s next?


And so if anything, I would just encourage people to have an open mind.


To learn more about the impacts of Alzheimer’s disease on both the sufferer and her/his family and friends, we encourage you to reach out.


Contact your local Elder Law attorney (Ross & Shoalmire LLP if you live in the Texas, Arkansas or Louisiana area).


The article is taken in large part from a piece John Ross and Lisa Shoalmire published on the Aging Insight radio podcast What you shouldn’t have done – what you did and how badly it went wrong.

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