Tuesday, May 30, 2017

How Do I Want to Live?

This is always the key question in thinking about retirement. How do I want to live, where do I want to live, what will I be doing, and what's it all going to cost?
I'm still grinding away at my job, with some good days and some bad days. Still pretty stressed. Still spending a lot of time looking at retirement calculations, and also real estate sites. Because it's suddenly seeming like real estate is where the answer will be found.

Ever since I started writing this blog, one of my key assumptions has been that I will always want to live in NYC. I love it here. It has become home. It's where many of my friends are (though some of my best friends are elsewhere), it is where I have work connections and where most of the jobs in my industry are based. I love the wealth of cultural institutions, even if I don't always take advantage of them. I just like the vibe of the streets-- there is always someone or something interesting to look at. You can walk and take public transportation to do so many things. Although there is anonymity in the city, neighbors still look after each other, and in some ways, NYC is a great place to age-- you can get things delivered, take taxis, there are doctors and hospitals galore, lots of buildings with elevators and doormen-- all things that make life a little easier for elderly people.

The flip side is that it's freaking expensive! If you really want to enjoy the best of what NYC has to offer, it's going to cost you a lot. My lifestyle has always been kind of low-to-middle in terms of NYC standards-- I've mostly lived outside Manhattan, moving further and further as real estate prices increased. I've lived in tiny apartments with no services. I've tried to keep my expenses in check. In more recent years, that has changed a bit due to Sweetie, who already lived in a nicer doorman building and had a car and a cleaning lady coming in weekly. As my salary increased, I felt comfortable taking on my share of the cost for that lifestyle, even if it wasn't what I might have chosen on my own. The cleaning lady is now only every other week but we live quite luxuriously, I think. A lawyer or a hedge-funder might not be impressed, but my 10-years-ago self would be!

So now the question is "what are we willing to give up?" The more we talk about it, the more we realize we're willing to change things quite a bit. Though we love the city, we've started to feel a bit annoyed by all the noise and congestion from so much overdevelopment-- new buildings going up, creating more density, more crowds. Meanwhile our own apartment is kind of crumbling-- Sweetie's owned it for a long time and has done some renovations over the years but more are needed. Add in some new neighbors that are kind of obnoxious, and suddenly we're thinking maybe we should just move so we don't have to deal with all this crap. But to where?

We've started looking at some areas along the Metro-North train lines in NY state and Connecticut. We've looked a little in Hoboken and Jersey City. We've looked at far northern parts of Manhattan and even in the Bronx. Most of this has been idle on-line searching so far but we've seen a few places in person at open houses. It's hard not to pull up stakes immediately when you visit a beautiful newly-built house with twice as much square footage as your current apartment, a washer/dryer, garage, and a terrace with partial water views that we could own mortgage-free with lower monthly costs than the current apartment. The only downside would be my commute being close to 2 hours each way! If I wasn't working the commute wouldn't be an issue, of course, but there were some other issues we didn't love about the location. We've also discovered that property taxes can be surprising-- in NJ and CT, they are often really high vs. NYC, so something that looks like a bargain might not be.

So this question of how we want to live is yet to be answered, but we're looking at a lot more possibilities. We could come into NYC for day trips and still enjoy the culture. We could even stay in a hotel once in a while for far less than it costs us to live here. And if we manage our expenses well enough in the next decade or so, we'd probably be able to afford to move back into the city at some later time, even have a small pied-a-terre. But the bottom line is we're starting to figure out possible budgets that might really allow us not to work at all from now on. Living in NYC is the biggest expense we can cut... I never thought we'd be willing to do it, but it could make all the difference.


Anonymous said...

I dealt with those same questions a few years back, somewhat different constraints, and I settled on an option that you didn't mention. How I wanted to live was how I've always lived, and what to do with the time was ideally holding down the same job-- or something similar albeit with reduced hours. The 'where' was my main issue. I needed to move to SoCal for family reasons but I had been working for decades in silicon valley. Cost wasn't a major factor because my living standard has always been low enough that I could afford almost anywhere (including most of NYC).

The solution appeared when I applied for a company buyout offer a few years ago. Management wanted to keep me on so they proposed that instead of retiring, I could telecommute from home doing the part of my job that was well-suited to this kind of arrangement. I didn't think working remotely would turn out well, but management convinced me to give it a try. Well that was a few years ago and I'd say results have been excellent. I'm still at it today.

Anonymous said...

I'm a native New Yorker but I've never looked back or regretted my move to NJ even once. There is an area of NJ called the valley. The Valley sits on the border of West Orange, and South Orange. Anyway, The Valley has turned into an artist haven. Lofts have gone up everywhere. The Valley is 3 blocks from a train station in 3 different directions.

I bought a loft here that I would never be able to afford in NYC. Check out Alphalofts.com, I actually live in one of these! I've never been more happy to wake up and head into the city everyday(6th Ave). My car has gated parking and the area continues to improve. I feel safe when I go running and biking and compared to NY it is extremely quiet.

Hoboken on the other hand is extremely over rated!!

I've been reading your blog for years. You are my financial idol.

Good luck with finding your new home.

T'Pol said...

Couldn't you work remotely if you would be willing to give up a small percentage of your pay? This could lower the stress level too. If your current workplace does not allow that, may be another would.

I am planning to work until the end of 2019 but, there is a chance that the company I work for may be sold by the end of this year. The new owners may or may not like to keep on working with me because, I am an expensive employee. I may or may not like to work for them for any reason, I do not know now. If that happens, I may choose to work part-time for a longer period of time to make up for the amount of money I might bring in, in the next two and a half years.