Karen Perry: Can elders afford to retire in America?
Social Security, nest eggs, home equity, reverse mortgages, pensions and robbing a bank might make living in America possible during your golden years.
Fifteen years ago my folks purchased a patio home in Arizona for $60,000 and invested another $20,000 to remodel and create a comfy home for their retirement years. Between the Social Security monthly checks and a small pension they were able to make ends meet and keep a small nest egg. During the big boom in real estate they realized their little oasis sprung a golden stream of equity so they decided to enter into a reverse mortgage believing they would still be able to stay in their home for the rest of their lives.
Well, life is never predictable and five years ago my father passed away and my mom lost his pension and is how stuck in a home now worth under $60,000. She can’t sell it to move closer to family. Walking away from the home is a thought, but the bank might hold her financially responsible depending on the reverse mortgage contract. Becoming stuck between a rock and a hard place at the age of 82 was not her ideal of retiring and enjoying her final years.
I wonder how many other folks are in a similar pickle! No wonder seniors are seeking other countries where their dollar goes farther and life is a more peaceful. If you haven’t seen the movie “The Exotic Marigold Hotel”, I highly recommend enjoying a good laugh while exploring some ideas about where else you can live in affordable retirement. The Marigold Hotel is a retirement community that is anything but “Exotic,” located in a hectic, highly populated city in eastern India. The elderly characters in the movie learn to adjust and come to realize every place in the world has tradeoffs. Some are worthy and some are not.
We may be ready to throw in the towel when we realize the cost of retirement in America can be a struggle. However, lowering our standards and changing a lifestyle may be a worthwhile effort.
The baby boomers are next in line to figure out how to retire in comfort. Being one myself and spending over 30 years working with elders, I believe we are living much longer in retirement than originally thought when Social Security and Medicare were enacted. Who would have imagined collecting pensions and Social Security checks for an average of 30 years in today’s world? Some folks are collecting longer than their working careers.
As long as medical technology continues to advance, medications cure or prolong wellness and healthier lifestyles remain popular, people will live well into or beyond centenarian years. I worry about the future of our elders. Maybe we should stop checking our cholesterol, forget the lab tests and other medical testing physicians keep ordering after you turn 65 and start eating more chocolate, drink fine wine, buy a Harley and spend the money while you can still enjoy it!
• Karen Perry is the executive director of The Lodge Assisted Living Facility in Carson City.