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Business/Economy

Stay or leave? How some Alaskans are approaching retirement

By listening to conversations, you can sometimes spot trends. Last year we noticed more clients, friends and family preparing for retirement and talking about where they might eventually call home. Conversations at social gatherings often were sharing information and the stages of retirement each person was in. Below is a culmination of what we’ve learned.

Major concerns centered on familiarity, affordability and activities. For most retirees, the question of where to go focused on family and friends. Some needed to assist aging parents and others wanted to help with grandchildren. Others were going back or nearer to hometowns, or had found locations while visiting family members, old classmates and co-workers. The majority of those decisions were based on numerous visits, with some people even renting for a time during vacations to make certain.

Many of the retirees also wanted to make the move early enough to make new friends and find new medical services. The older you get, the harder and more stressful these types of major changes are. Like your aging parents who refuse to move out of the family home, you stay put out of fear of tackling something new and different.

Additionally, we noticed couples who were undecided about a location. They were held back by one partner who was not as excited about the new location as the other partner. Couples not fully committed up front seemed to move multiple times before finally settling on a location.

Affordability on a fixed income was a must. Overall, the majority of the soon-to-retire seemed prepared financially. A recent CNBC article ranked Anchorage as number five (with a score of 80.16 out of 100) in its look at the top 10 cities where seniors were most prepared for retirement. According to the CNBC numbers, the average annual senior income in Anchorage was $58,016 (private and/or social security). Anchorage homeownership among seniors is more than 80 percent, of which slightly more than 22 percent are housing cost-burdened, and poverty among seniors only 5 percent. Housing cost-burdened is defined as paying more than 30 percent of income for housing, which leaves very little left over for necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care.

Something else we’ve discovered is that retirees who are not moving away really value outdoor activities (fishing, hiking, biking, etc.) in their daily lives. Some may only want to escape the winter for a period of time. In a recent US News article about the best places to live, Anchorage was ranked 42 out of 125, with a quality of life score of 6.4 and overall score of 6.7 out of 10.

Of the couples staying, some were keeping their current homes. Others were looking to downsize to a smaller home to reduce expenses. Both groups figured out what they needed to do to feel comfortable leaving for a longer period of time during the winter.

Being someplace warmer during the winter allows many to continue with favorite outdoor activities, as well as allowing for more traveling. While their health still permits, some even plan to RV or trailer camp for a period of time to see parts of the U.S. on their bucket list.

Finally, those who were already retired did comment they encountered different questions than expected when meeting new people. Success seemed to be no longer measured in what you did for work, but how long you have been retired.

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