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Monday, June 26, 2006


When I retired some 25 years ago I thought "This is it!" I shall now loll about the house, sleep late, travel some, and, basically, just do all the things I had never had time or money to pursue in my working years. Boy, was I in for a rude suprise later in life.

Up until recently things did go along pretty well except for a number of unexpected medical problems and more than a few surgeries. My wife and I traveled some - the big trip was an Alaskan cruise - see http://travel.awiggins.com/Alaska/ - plus a number of other driving trips to see friends and relatives in the lower 48. We had enough income and savings to live comfortably if not high, our house is paid for (so is our car) but something does not seem right. I did have to give up one of my loves in life for health reasons - flying lightplanes - but I compensated until recently (I am 78) by flying ultralights and powered parachutes.

And perhaps the peak of my flying career was being able to travel on four separate summers with a barnstorming pilot, Capt. Al Chaney, in his 1928 Ford Tri-Motor Tin Goose. I acted as copilot, ticket salesman, loadmaster, mechanic, and general go-fer. This was late 80s/early 90s, culminating in a 13-day flight from Cleveland to Santa Monica.

Now, here in 2006, my wife and I are contemplating on what to do next. We thought it would be easy. It won't. I would not describe us as in failing health; however, neither of us can do the work needed in keeping up a home. We've been looking around to see what is available in the way of retirement communities which still allow independent living without having to do all the maintenance work. Well, surprise, surprise.

We had thought that we were well-off having sold a business, a KOA campground, at a very good time allowing us to start building net worth. We thought we had enough barring some disaster. That disaster is very subtle but it is here.

The two places we had considered most were Springdale at Lucy Corr in Virginia and Brandermill Woods, both near our children and near Richmond. At Springdale you have to put up about $350,000 as an entrance fee (plus a high monthly fee) and at Brandermill where there is no entrance fee the tariff would be a very high monthly fee, around $4500.

We could perhaps swing either deal but are now having second thoughts, largely because to do so would deplete our net worth and, after living there for a few years, would leave us with little to pass on to heirs. Is that important? Who can say, but we would like to. Also, the high monthly payments would be difficult as our cash flow is pretty low.

For now we have decided to remain here in our little house which we both like, which has a great view of a golf course and lake, and which is paid for. But, now comes the rub. Who will dig my garden next year? Who will mow the grass, trim the shrubs, pull the weeds, vacuum the rugs, cook the meals, etc., etc.? Well, for right now we can just do it. What about next year and the next?

I know, just hire somebody! That will surely be less than those high monthly payments. But who can we hire? Virginia at the moment has the lowest unemployment rate it has had. No only are their rates high when you do find someone but no one even wants to do this kind of work, to say nothing of the little odd jobs that come up every day. I will leave immigration for another post but even I think it would be nice to hire an illegal for some of this work. We did have a Mexican family living next to us for several years and they were all very nice people so I am sure we could find a few to work for us. When I needed help for anything the man of the house could supply workers at any time, mostly non-English-speaking illegals. They did good work for low pay.

Of course our government does not allow that or, even, if they look the other way or are too swamped to prosecute us, we are still violating the law by not setting up records, collecting taxes, meeting work requirements, etc. And, Heaven help us if we should have a criminal element working for us, he would have or fake an injury, and then sue us for what we do have, even allowing for help from our insurance.

At our point in life we are just not about to comply with those government mandates. So we don't hire any helpful illegals and are left with only others who contract out their services (but at a much higher rate and often with poor service and often with those same illegals).

Alternatively we are left with few choices if we stay here. Relatives are a possibilty but not really a good idea when you are still ambulatory. My daughters are too busy (modern lifestyles, you know) and my grandson does not yet have transportation which itself is a problem. When he gets here I pay him to work as he is not exactly a volunteer and could earn money elsewhere. Also, while he is a great kid he has limited skills as he spends much of his time gaming.

So here we sit. No real plan for the future but better off than many. We have a financial advisor but he can't do much but suggest. Our daughters want us to stay here (and I think with no ulterior motives regarding inheritance); however, they both work and have lots of other interests.

Perhaps I will post again on this subject if any decisions come along. Stay tuned.

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