Hello everybody, welcome to episode 229 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. Today's question is on whether to relocate and retire near family.
I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino reminding you before we begin that if you have a question you would like help with on the show, we welcome you to email it to us at advice AT oldpodcast.com
And today we’ll be looking at another question being faced by a listener who is on the verge of retirement. It goes without saying that with retirement comes a significant shift in the way we spend our time, and more importantly, the way we see ourselves. Our asker today wonders just how much she should double down on her family after retirement. Let’s see if there’s anything we can provide her with to get more clarity on this. Here’s what she’s got to say…
QUESTION: “I'm a 65 year old woman, have been divorced since 1991, no kids. I work full time as an executive assistant, I am an introvert, and the only close related family is my sister and her family in Vermont. My parents both passed years ago. I'm going to retire in March of next year. I don’t know whether I should stay here in Ohio in my condo (that I love) or move to Vermont so I'll have family instead of being alone in retirement.”
Deciding Where to Go
Oh, I know this position. Not for retirement, but I know the nagging feeling of wanting to go back to family and the challenges of being away from them for so long. I took the plunge and made the move back home, but I really want to pay respect to the differences between our circumstances and give you some questions to ask yourself rather than dwelling too much on my experience.
You’ve perhaps unknowingly dropped a few clues in your question that I want you to look back at. I don’t want to read too much into them being that they could’ve been for the sake of exposition, but I want you to at least take a second look at them.
There’s some lamenting about not having any family of your own, be it children or a husband. Maybe that’s just so I can get to know you and better answer the question, or maybe it’s something you’ve gone out of your way to say because it’s something you’re hurt by.
A Few Other Things of Note
There’s also the distinction that you make about only having related family in Vermont. Again, maybe it’s just your phrasing to help clarify your circumstances, but maybe it’s you insinuating that you have relationships in Ohio that might as well be family even if you aren’t blood.
You mention loving your condo. I’m glad you said that. Is it just your condo that you love about Ohio, or is there more that you love?
And finally, in your last sentence, you say “instead of being alone”, which makes me think that you already feel alone or are at least anticipating feeling alone when you no longer have work to occupy your time.
You’ve not provided me with a long question, but the way you’ve constructed it leaves me with questions.
What Does Your Present Life Look Like?
For a moment, pretend you didn’t have family in Vermont, and look presently at your life in Ohio. I particularly want you to look at your life outside of work. In spite of your introverted nature, is it full of friendships? Is it full of fun?
Do you have retired or soon-to-be retired friends in Ohio that are on the same journey as you are? Does it feel like it could be a home? OR do you spend your hours outside of work feeling lonely and unfulfilled already, without much that you find entertaining?
Basically, there are two things going on in my mind right now. On the one hand, I’m wondering if Ohio is going under appreciated at all. I’m wondering if what happened to me is happening to you, and that is that because of your strong emphasis on your own family, you’re missing the fact that Ohio and the loved ones you have there have become your new home.
Not to say they’re replacing your blood relatives or the place you grew up in if you didn’t grow up there, but that they provide a lifestyle that better fits the person you’ve grown into than the place where your family is would provide.
Your Time Away From Work
On the other hand, if in your time away from work you’re finding yourself wishing you could go see your sister and her family each night and you clearly have more in common with them than anyone you know in Ohio, it’s a different story. That would tell me that you find more meaning in being in Vermont, and that you’d quickly get over leaving your condo if your condo is the only thing you like about Ohio.
Now, with that being said, I will issue warnings for each place. Obviously, since moving will only get harder as you age, you have to think about how both places will grow, and that doesn’t bode particularly well for Ohio.
Reasons for Moving As You Age
I know I just got through saying that you should take it seriously if you have a lot of present joy there and there are people on the journey with you, but Ohio at 65 is different from Ohio at 75 or 85. Most people tend to agree that the value of family only intensifies with age, and that’s partially because families will stick together and look after loved ones in their times of need.
Close friends will do this too, but many people are like us and tend to put family on a pedestal, and because of that, you can probably count more on the allegiance of your sister than anyone else. This will stand out a lot if you get sick or when the holidays come around.
As far as Vermont goes, you have to be careful with whether or not you have feelings of loneliness or despair about not having your spouse and children that are driving the decision to move there. Family relationships are special when they’re good, but that doesn’t mean they should be used to fill a void. So if you do wish to have your own family, it’s not to say that going to be with your sister and whatever nieces or nephews you have will be a bad thing, but it shouldn’t be transactional.
You don’t want to go there if you’re subconsciously looking for them to save you. You want to go there because it’s an active decision by you, and because you love having them as part of your life, rather than relying on them to help you feel whole. This would be a little too transactional, and no one is going to help you love yourself more than you.
So you mustn’t move back there out of desperation, but rather because you love being near them while still focusing on building a life for yourself. Vermont can’t only be about them. You’ll have to build a life there including them, which is different than making your life about them. You may be looking to use them to replace work as the centerpiece of your life, but no matter how old you are or how much you’re working, a healthy life still has to be balanced enough that it doesn’t completely fall apart should one thing go missing.
Retire Near Family: Conclusion
I don’t know much about what Ohio offers you, but if there’s a lot of meaning there extending beyond just a condo, it stands a chance. Again, don’t let the allure of family blind you if, in reality, Vermont only has your family and Ohio has everything else that you love. Only you know the answer to that question.
Regardless of where you are, the most important thing is building a complete life for yourself in which your values are fully represented, and you’re never too old to do that. If you don’t have much of that in Ohio, Vermont is the clear choice since you at least have a good family foundation there. If you do have that in Ohio but really feel drawn to your family, then moving to Vermont is going to have to come with a lot of restarting.
You don’t want to put all the weight on your sister to replace a lot of good that you already have (if you already have it), so consider what it has to offer outside of family and if it’s a place that you think you could gel with.
And that’ll about do it for today, dear friends. Asker, I hope this episode gave you some of the right questions to ask yourself if you haven’t found yourself asking them already. Again, what lies underneath this is really the importance of building a complete life for yourself.
Those who look after you and those you can count on do become more important as you get older, I believe, but whether it’s now or 20 years from now, you’ll likely be the most satisfied with yourself if you know that you’ve build a lot of sources of meaning rather than relying too much on any one of them.
So thanks for submitting this question and thanks to everyone else for tuning in yet again. I’ll be back with you once again on Friday with episode 230, and I hope to see you all there. Until then.