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can you retire in Hawaii on a budget?
Old 10-06-2011, 07:54 PM   #1
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can you retire in Hawaii on a budget?

Did anyone o fyou out there retired (or plan to retire) in Hawaii on a budget? and if so - what is your budget (as detailed as possible).

The winter is only starting on the east coast but I am already tired of it. So I keep myself occupied by dreaming of retiring to hawaii, but not sure we could pull it off financially, from what I hear it being so expensive. We have a 7 yo which is another issue (would I screw up his life if I moved to Hawaii when he was still in school)?

Thanks!
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Old 10-06-2011, 08:53 PM   #2
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I am retired in Hawaii, but I doubt I can be helpful, since, though not rich, I'm not really on a budget, and my wife and I don't have kids. I do have friends whose kids have gone to public school here, and they seem to have turned out okay, but I think (trying to imagine I did have kids) I would want to send my children to Punahou school here, an expensive private school (I understand it does have scholarships). A close friend of mine sent his daughter there, and she got a great education.
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Old 10-06-2011, 08:54 PM   #3
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Yes, as long as it is a generous budget.
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Old 10-06-2011, 09:23 PM   #4
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Yes, as long as it is a generous budget.
There are a fair amount of resources on moving to Hawaii on this board
and this blog started by an acquaintance.

Kids greatly complicated the situation since most of the public schools in Hawaii are poor and the best private ones are very very expensive. Punahou is $18,500/year, my friend found it was cheaper to send his to kids to Stanford than Punahou cause he got aid for Stanford but none for Punahou.
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Old 10-06-2011, 09:40 PM   #5
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Consider home schooling? We did our boys up to high school.
Consider getting at least a part time job while retired in Hawaii.

I have friends that moved over there and they love it. They used to have a huge house on acreage in California and now have a little older home across the street from the beach. It's no where near the home they had here, but who needed it when you are in Hawaii. Heating / Cooling costs have got to be about non-existent.
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Old 10-06-2011, 10:37 PM   #6
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There are a fair amount of resources on moving to Hawaii on this board
and this blog started by an acquaintance.

Kids greatly complicated the situation since most of the public schools in Hawaii are poor and the best private ones are very very expensive. Punahou is $18,500/year, my friend found it was cheaper to send his to kids to Stanford than Punahou cause he got aid for Stanford but none for Punahou.
That amazes me. When I went there long, long ago, I think close to half the students (no exaggeration) were on need based scholarships funded by tremendous missionary trusts. Something must have dried up....
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Old 10-06-2011, 10:59 PM   #7
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I am also thinking of moving to Hawaii.

My budget for the 2 of us would be about $55,000 a year, assuming a simple and non-extravagant lifestyle. Also assume reasonable health insurance premiums - to bridge the years between now and Medicare qualification. Will keep only one car to lower costs.

Hawaii sales & state income taxes are no worse than California ( at our projected income level ), and property taxes are somewhat less - in fact I hear one gets a discount if one is over 70 years old ( HI members, please comment on this ).

So, in my case, I would be moving from one high cost state to another high cost state, the shock is not as dramatic.

However, HI housing is expensive, I could get a house about half the square footage for about 25% more than my CA house. ( Yep, CA home prices have fallen dramatically in my neck of the woods. )

One area of concern would be the kids on the mainland - communication, visits, etc. Also the risk of island fever, though I personally do not see that as a problem.
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Old 10-06-2011, 11:33 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by norisk View Post
Did anyone o fyou out there retired (or plan to retire) in Hawaii on a budget? and if so - what is your budget (as detailed as possible).
The winter is only starting on the east coast but I am already tired of it. So I keep myself occupied by dreaming of retiring to hawaii, but not sure we could pull it off financially, from what I hear it being so expensive. We have a 7 yo which is another issue (would I screw up his life if I moved to Hawaii when he was still in school)?
Thanks!
Shucks, if you want dry & warmer weather then just move to Hawaii's 9th Island: Las Vegas.

Seriously, though, you can live an affordable beach-bum lifestyle here. You have to be ready for more than your fantasy weather, though. You also have to handle a tremendous cultural change, a diet change, and perhaps a different outlook on life.

Our daughter's a product of local public schools. She apparently had no problem getting accepted into Rice University to study engineering. Reading and math can be supplemented by Kumon or other after-school programs, and frankly the quality of the school system is most strongly linked to the parents who care. Your seven-year-old would do just fine here, although if (military families are any example) you teach him to surf and then move somewhere else he's quite likely to stop talking to you.

Here's our budget numbers from the last six years:
How much did you spend in 2010?

I strongly recommend reading all you can at HawaiiThreads.com. Pay particular attention to the threads by Ryan Ozawa, PZarquon, who's raising a family here too.
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Old 10-07-2011, 05:44 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by norisk View Post
Did anyone o fyou out there retired (or plan to retire) in Hawaii on a budget? and if so - what is your budget (as detailed as possible).

The winter is only starting on the east coast but I am already tired of it. So I keep myself occupied by dreaming of retiring to hawaii, but not sure we could pull it off financially, from what I hear it being so expensive. We have a 7 yo which is another issue (would I screw up his life if I moved to Hawaii when he was still in school)?

Thanks!
I'm completing 4 years in Hawaii. I think Nords' budget seems reasonable though we spend ours on different things (e.g., we don't have a mortgage).

The best book I've seen on a potential move to the islands is So You Want to Live in Hawaii: A Guide to Settling and Succeeding in the Islands by Toni Polancy - Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists Toni Polancy leads you through many issues more-or-less specific to moving to Hawaii (as opposed to moving around the mainland). She may help you either commit to a move or completely rethink the idea.

One thing I always tell people who seem envious of my move to the islands: You are still the same person when you move here. Yeah, the weather is better, but you must adapt to culture, food, costs, possible loneliness, schools, traffic (on Oahu), etc. Are YOU the type of person who can do that?

Best suggestion if you are serious is to visit for a month. Stay out of the tourist areas as much as possible and learn how to live "local". You'll find out about housing costs, shopping, schools, culture, etc. Good luck!

As always, YMMV.
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Old 10-07-2011, 06:48 AM   #10
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Best suggestion if you are serious is to visit for a month. Stay out of the tourist areas as much as possible and learn how to live "local". You'll find out about housing costs, shopping, schools, culture, etc. Good luck!

As always, YMMV.
For sure do the test visit. Pretty much every aspect of life is quite different from the mainland.
From my experience you have your "I love it" group, and the "I want to go back group." Given the enormity of this move, it is good to be firmly in the "I love it" group before the permanent stakes go down.
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Old 10-07-2011, 06:57 AM   #11
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Yes, as long as it is a generous budget.
Exactly. You can live anywhere you wish as long as your finances support your desired lifestyle.
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Old 10-07-2011, 08:36 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Nords View Post

Here's our budget numbers from the last six years:
How much did you spend in 2010?

Doug, thanks for the very informative spreadsheet. I used it as a starting point, and backed out the stuff that didn't apply to us - kid expenses, schooling, taekwondo, etc

Once that was done, it sure looks like my original estimate is reasonable. Gives me hope that I can manage the move in due course.
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Old 10-07-2011, 09:48 AM   #13
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Doug, thanks for the very informative spreadsheet. I used it as a starting point, and backed out the stuff that didn't apply to us - kid expenses, schooling, taekwondo, etc
Once that was done, it sure looks like my original estimate is reasonable. Gives me hope that I can manage the move in due course.
I'm working up a blog post on this, and here are some (very rough draft) bullet points on living in Hawaii. Please let me know what I've overlooked!

Upon further reflection, here are other observations about the islands:
- You'll either love the islands or hate them. You won't be ambivalent. I'm a steely-eyed killer of the deep who has only cried a handful of times in my life, and one of them was when I had to contemplate yet another military move from the islands. (Nope, we didn't move.)

- If you have Mainland relatives then visits will always be complicated. Some island residents chafe at not "being there" for Mainland Mom or Dad. Older island residents miss out on a lot of grandkid moments because their kids "escape" the islands to the exotic Mainland colleges and tend to build their careers on the Mainland until they're in their 30s. One of the major reasons for residents (especially military) leaving the islands is Mainland family. Of course if your family is born & raised here, or if your parents aren't in your life, then it's not a problem.

- I should have mentioned that our electric bill is so low because most of our power comes from our photovoltaic array. I'll also point out that our actual monthly electric use is about 350 KWHrs, which costs about 25-35 cents/KWHr. (Depends on the price of oil.) Your home will have a solar water heater, which will provide more hot water than you can ever use. Air conditioning is not essential for a happy life here, and a heating system is unnecessary except at much higher altitudes.

- Those who enjoy "transportation lifestyles" will chafe here. You can't just get in a car and drive in a straight line for hours. You stay off the roads around rush hours. You can't drive 85 MPH for more than a few seconds. A plane flight to the Mainland is five hours (or more) and a neighbor island can be over $100. Bicycle lanes are sparse. Buses are not as frequent as they could be. However walking and hiking are year-round activities. Water sports rule.

- Your clothing budget will be very low. Especially "winter wear" (whatever that is) and shoes.

- I use less gasoline in Hawaii than I did in San Diego, Texas, the Bay Area, or the DC area. It costs more per gallon here but the total cost is lower here because you drive a lot less.

- Hawaii has some of the nation's highest personal income tax rates. However property taxes are low. Excise tax (a regressive sales tax) is relatively low.

- Hawaii is one of the nation's most tax-friendly states for retirees. As in top three.

- "Mainland" food is a luxury item here. I'm referring to raspberries, blueberries, grapes, potatoes, many kinds of bread, cow's milk, and many cereal brands. However I chuckle when I see people who actually pay money to eat a mango. It's easy to grow papaya, pineapple, bananas, tangerines, oranges, avocados, lemon, tomatoes, and many Asian/Indian fruits high in vitamin C whose names you've never heard of. If you want to live in Hawaii on a budget then you must eat local cuisine. A fruit tree wouldn't hurt, and a veggie garden will be a bonus.

- Mainland franchise restaurants are expensive. Local restaurants are generally cheaper. The good news is that there are about 20 cuisines to choose from, except that Hawaii is may be lacking in Tex-Mex and Indian. That's not a complaint-- IMO the Mainland is lacking in kal-be, kimchee, and curry powder. Hawaii's lunch wagons and takeout are the world's best.

- Hawaii's public school reputation is undeservedly poor. All large multicultural school districts with immigrant populations struggle with the same issues. Private schools offer more individual attention, smaller classes, and better tech. However the "lifestyle" cost of most private schools is also very high: long commutes to downtown locations during rush hours, living too far away from the school for frequent visits outside of school hours, not being able to easily participate in sports. Private school logistics can all be worked out, but families end up sacrificing a lot for it. Nearby public schools (and parental attention) are almost always better than remote private schools.

- IMO the most important criteria for any high school is: distance. Our daughter benefited tremendously from being only a mile away, close enough to ride her bike at all hours. We parents also benefited by being able to attend any school event with minimal advance planning... especially if that advance planning had to come from a teen.

- Driving in Hawaii is very scary, and motorcycling even more so. People are so damn polite here that they violate the rules of the road in order to politely let others go first. OTOH we'll brake in panic at the sign of rain, we'll slam on our brakes whenever someone within three lanes slams on theirs, and we'll randomly change lanes a mile or so in advance because we don't get a lot of lane-changing practice. We will not (WILL NOT!) use our horns, except that an occasional "howzit honk" is OK if you're doing a shaka outside your car window.

- Cell phone connectivity on Oahu is not that good, especially compared to the Mainland. Same for Internet bandwidth. Limiting factors include terrain (ridges & valleys) and undersea cables. However it is relatively straightforward to make a good living here from the Internet... unless the surf is up.

- If you were not born here (or raised here for at least half of your first 20 years) then do not attempt to speak pidgin. You can let Hawaiian words into your vocabulary if you don't put verbal quotes around them. It's OK to speak a foreign language if you've actually lived in a country that requires you to use that foreign language.

- When you hear pidgin, do not make assumptions about that person's education level, literacy, or intellect. You will be wrong and they won't tolerate your attitude, either. Exhibit A for this syndrome is a former elementary school teacher and holder of an English degree. During five years here she never figured out why she could never get any help in a retail establishment...

- Nobody in Hawaii gives a crap about your Mainland stuff-- where you're from, what you did, who you knew, what you drive, what you owned. Seriously. No, really, we don't care. We're not hostile or envious-- we just genuinely don't see how it has any relevance here or why you would still care. We may seem polite but... we really don't care, and pretty soon you'll be standing in the corner talking to yourself. Get over your Mainland culture. Learn local culture. Japanese culture is OK too.

- If you're going to insist on talking about Mainland sports then you better know the name of everyone on your chosen team who is Hawaiian or who grew up here. You should know the names of their local families, too. The best advice, however, is to get over your Mainland sports and start following University of Hawaii sports... and high school football.

- All your Mainland family, relatives, & friends think that you have plenty of spare bedrooms and that you live in the middle of Waikiki. Well, maybe they don't really think that, but they're shocked to learn that you don't spend all your liberty time in Waikiki and that your favorite surf spot is 90 minutes away from there.
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Old 10-07-2011, 10:52 AM   #14
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I'm working up a blog post on this, and here are some (very rough draft) bullet points on living in Hawaii. Please let me know what I've overlooked!

.
Perhaps it's not PC, or maybe not an issue in 2011, but I think the term haole (and implications) might have slipped in your guide.
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Old 10-07-2011, 11:10 AM   #15
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- When you hear pidgin, do not make assumptions about that person's education level, literacy, or intellect. You will be wrong and they won't tolerate your attitude, either.
Good suggestion. And the reason you will be wrong is that locals are flexible in their speech -- no one these days speaks only pidgin. If they're talking pidgin to you, it's not because they couldn't use standard English if they wanted to. They're testing your reaction.
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Old 10-07-2011, 11:50 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Nords View Post
I'm working up a blog post on this, and here are some (very rough draft) bullet points on living in Hawaii. Please let me know what I've overlooked!

Upon further reflection, here are other observations about the islands:
- You'll either love the islands or hate them. You won't be ambivalent. I'm a steely-eyed killer of the deep who has only cried a handful of times in my life, and one of them was when I had to contemplate yet another military move from the islands. (Nope, we didn't move.)

- If you have Mainland relatives then visits will always be complicated. Some island residents chafe at not "being there" for Mainland Mom or Dad. Older island residents miss out on a lot of grandkid moments because their kids "escape" the islands to the exotic Mainland colleges and tend to build their careers on the Mainland until they're in their 30s. One of the major reasons for residents (especially military) leaving the islands is Mainland family. Of course if your family is born & raised here, or if your parents aren't in your life, then it's not a problem.

- I should have mentioned that our electric bill is so low because most of our power comes from our photovoltaic array. I'll also point out that our actual monthly electric use is about 350 KWHrs, which costs about 25-35 cents/KWHr. (Depends on the price of oil.) Your home will have a solar water heater, which will provide more hot water than you can ever use. Air conditioning is not essential for a happy life here, and a heating system is unnecessary except at much higher altitudes.

- Those who enjoy "transportation lifestyles" will chafe here. You can't just get in a car and drive in a straight line for hours. You stay off the roads around rush hours. You can't drive 85 MPH for more than a few seconds. A plane flight to the Mainland is five hours (or more) and a neighbor island can be over $100. Bicycle lanes are sparse. Buses are not as frequent as they could be. However walking and hiking are year-round activities. Water sports rule.

- Your clothing budget will be very low. Especially "winter wear" (whatever that is) and shoes.

- I use less gasoline in Hawaii than I did in San Diego, Texas, the Bay Area, or the DC area. It costs more per gallon here but the total cost is lower here because you drive a lot less.

- Hawaii has some of the nation's highest personal income tax rates. However property taxes are low. Excise tax (a regressive sales tax) is relatively low.

- Hawaii is one of the nation's most tax-friendly states for retirees. As in top three.

- "Mainland" food is a luxury item here. I'm referring to raspberries, blueberries, grapes, potatoes, many kinds of bread, cow's milk, and many cereal brands. However I chuckle when I see people who actually pay money to eat a mango. It's easy to grow papaya, pineapple, bananas, tangerines, oranges, avocados, lemon, tomatoes, and many Asian/Indian fruits high in vitamin C whose names you've never heard of. If you want to live in Hawaii on a budget then you must eat local cuisine. A fruit tree wouldn't hurt, and a veggie garden will be a bonus.

- Mainland franchise restaurants are expensive. Local restaurants are generally cheaper. The good news is that there are about 20 cuisines to choose from, except that Hawaii is may be lacking in Tex-Mex and Indian. That's not a complaint-- IMO the Mainland is lacking in kal-be, kimchee, and curry powder. Hawaii's lunch wagons and takeout are the world's best.

- Hawaii's public school reputation is undeservedly poor. All large multicultural school districts with immigrant populations struggle with the same issues. Private schools offer more individual attention, smaller classes, and better tech. However the "lifestyle" cost of most private schools is also very high: long commutes to downtown locations during rush hours, living too far away from the school for frequent visits outside of school hours, not being able to easily participate in sports. Private school logistics can all be worked out, but families end up sacrificing a lot for it. Nearby public schools (and parental attention) are almost always better than remote private schools.

- IMO the most important criteria for any high school is: distance. Our daughter benefited tremendously from being only a mile away, close enough to ride her bike at all hours. We parents also benefited by being able to attend any school event with minimal advance planning... especially if that advance planning had to come from a teen.

- Driving in Hawaii is very scary, and motorcycling even more so. People are so damn polite here that they violate the rules of the road in order to politely let others go first. OTOH we'll brake in panic at the sign of rain, we'll slam on our brakes whenever someone within three lanes slams on theirs, and we'll randomly change lanes a mile or so in advance because we don't get a lot of lane-changing practice. We will not (WILL NOT!) use our horns, except that an occasional "howzit honk" is OK if you're doing a shaka outside your car window.

- Cell phone connectivity on Oahu is not that good, especially compared to the Mainland. Same for Internet bandwidth. Limiting factors include terrain (ridges & valleys) and undersea cables. However it is relatively straightforward to make a good living here from the Internet... unless the surf is up.

- If you were not born here (or raised here for at least half of your first 20 years) then do not attempt to speak pidgin. You can let Hawaiian words into your vocabulary if you don't put verbal quotes around them. It's OK to speak a foreign language if you've actually lived in a country that requires you to use that foreign language.

- When you hear pidgin, do not make assumptions about that person's education level, literacy, or intellect. You will be wrong and they won't tolerate your attitude, either. Exhibit A for this syndrome is a former elementary school teacher and holder of an English degree. During five years here she never figured out why she could never get any help in a retail establishment...

- Nobody in Hawaii gives a crap about your Mainland stuff-- where you're from, what you did, who you knew, what you drive, what you owned. Seriously. No, really, we don't care. We're not hostile or envious-- we just genuinely don't see how it has any relevance here or why you would still care. We may seem polite but... we really don't care, and pretty soon you'll be standing in the corner talking to yourself. Get over your Mainland culture. Learn local culture. Japanese culture is OK too.

- If you're going to insist on talking about Mainland sports then you better know the name of everyone on your chosen team who is Hawaiian or who grew up here. You should know the names of their local families, too. The best advice, however, is to get over your Mainland sports and start following University of Hawaii sports... and high school football.

- All your Mainland family, relatives, & friends think that you have plenty of spare bedrooms and that you live in the middle of Waikiki. Well, maybe they don't really think that, but they're shocked to learn that you don't spend all your liberty time in Waikiki and that your favorite surf spot is 90 minutes away from there.
Nords,
For someone like me who has never even visited the Islands, could you break down the cultural and other differences between the main islands? For instance the type of people who generally call home on island X, enjoy ..... Versus those who live on Island Y, tend to be.....ect...
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Old 10-07-2011, 01:28 PM   #17
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I'm working up a blog post on this, and here are some (very rough draft) bullet points on living in Hawaii. Please let me know what I've overlooked!
Excellent post, Nords. Just a couple of details from a newbie to the islands:

Retiree's tax-haven status is based on exemption of most pension and SS income from taxation (as well as increasing property tax exemptions as one ages.) But, if you live mostly from your "stash" HI can be a tax hell. Also the GET (general excise tax) you pay seems low, but the price you pay for almost every item includes hidden excise taxes which have been added at each step of the supply-chain process. Toni Polancy suggests the total excise tax may be 16%. I can't confirm that.

Nords mentioned the lack of interest in your life on the mainland. True. It takes a while to pick up on that when you are attempting to get to know folks. It would seem a natural topic to discuss your "old" life. There just is no interest. Nords mentioned a lack of "hostility" about it and that is also true - with this exception. NEVER suggest that island life could be improved by doing something "like we did it back in Texas or Ohio". THAT does bring out hostility. You can actually see the body language shift when you say "Well, back in Michigan, we did it this way... " Delete such words (and thoughts if you can) from your conversations. Hawaii is what it is and the only possible way you can improve on it is to go back home to Cleveland.
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Old 10-07-2011, 03:33 PM   #18
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Koolau suggest for an extended visit is excellent one. The smartest thing I did when moving here was to stick my stuff in storage and rent a furnished place for 6 months.
The dumbest thing was to not get rid of 1/3 of the stuff I shipped when I decide to move here permanently. There are a surprising number of people who don't like living here.

Oh and one piece of good news on the cost front, I am not 100% sure but I think Hawaii's health insurance costs are lower than average. I pay $260/month for Kaiser and there are cheaper catastrophic insurance coverages available.
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Old 10-07-2011, 03:59 PM   #19
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Thread hijack (sorry);

Ko'olau - you had asked me about the Cook Islands a few posts back. Don't know if you saw my answer:

Aloha,

I've been to the Cooks (Rarotonga) 3 times, Tahiti 4 times and Hawaii at least 15 to 20 times (Oahu and once to Maui). Although I love Hawaii, I would agree with your friend that Raro is heaven on earth. The weather is outstanding, the water is pristine (and warm) and the people are very friendly. It is also very, very clean. Because it's so remote, they haven't been as spoiled by tourism as many other places, although I've noticed a difference even in the past decade. The pace of life is slow to the point of catatonia. There is very little crime, although even that has changed. You now have to lock your doors because young people have started stealing. TV comes on at 5 p.m. and ends at midnight and there are only a couple of channels. Most people have DVD players now, which I think has helped to change things - kids are fatter, aren't interested in learning the old traditions, aren't interested in learning Maori or learning the dances. People are no longer wearing just sarongs and flowers but are going for shorts and t-shirts. It's sad to see a culture dying.

It is very laid back and there is absolutely NOTHING to do, nowhere to go, nothing to see except jungle and ocean. There's only 1 road and no traffic lights. The NZ dollar is worth only about $.75 Cdn/US, but costs are high for both staples and the cost of gas is nuts (about $10/gallon).

I would very happily live there the rest of my life


To get back to the thread: you could live in the Cooks for less than half of what it would cost in Hawaii.
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Old 10-07-2011, 08:26 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JPatrick View Post
Perhaps it's not PC, or maybe not an issue in 2011, but I think the term haole (and implications) might have slipped in your guide.
It's a lot less of an issue than it used to be. It was pretty much stamped out in the 1980s. When I hear somebody say "That big haole guy" it's usually innocent... or maybe along the lines of "goofball".

Of course "f'in haole" is still heard in the surf lineup, but that's my cue to surf somewhere else after saying farewell with "Aloha to you, too, buddy". No need to put up with that behavior. There's another break less than 100 yards away, and it's almost always friendlier.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Koolau View Post
Excellent post, Nords. Just a couple of details from a newbie to the islands:
Nords mentioned a lack of "hostility" about it and that is also true - with this exception. NEVER suggest that island life could be improved by doing something "like we did it back in Texas or Ohio". THAT does bring out hostility. You can actually see the body language shift when you say "Well, back in Michigan, we did it this way... " Delete such words (and thoughts if you can) from your conversations. Hawaii is what it is and the only possible way you can improve on it is to go back home to Cleveland.
Oooh, excellent point, thanks!

One of my co-workers was the Hawaii NAVSEA rep at our training command, and he occasionally hosted groups of NAVSEA program managers here (usually during the winter months). At some point during a tour a helpful PM would say "You should do --- this way" to which Rodney would give his speech: "Gentlemen, you're in Hawaii now. And here in Hawaii, we do things a little bit differently."

Judging by his funding successes, they ended up agreeing with him.

We'd refer to ourselves as "Hawaii Navy", and you could tell when someone from the west coast or east coast Navy was there to help us. There was a huge difference among the different ports, and that's another reason I like Hawaii.

Quote:
Originally Posted by skyvue View Post
Nords,
For someone like me who has never even visited the Islands, could you break down the cultural and other differences between the main islands? For instance the type of people who generally call home on island X, enjoy ..... Versus those who live on Island Y, tend to be.....ect...
No.

I've been on Oahu for over 22 years. During that time I've been on the Big Island, Maui, and Kauai for a couple of weeks each... total. I've spent more time in Guam, Japan, and Thailand (each) than I have on those three neighbor islands (total). Heck, I've spent more time inside Maui's Haleakala Crater than I've spent on Kauai or the Big Island.

I've never even been to Molokai or Lanai (although I'll probably get to Molokai in the next couple years). I doubt I'll ever be invited to Ni'ihau. And I'm not very interested in visiting Kaho'olawe.

I've read that residents of the neighbor islands are really really tired of hearing "... like we do it on Oahu". They feel that all of their tax dollars go to Oahu and never come back. They feel that federal funds are sucked into the Oahu black hole before they make it to the neighbor islands. There is some truth to these feelings. They're really annoyed when the Governor of Hawaii behaves more like the Governor of Oahu (whoever that gov may be). But then again, Oahu has over 75% of the state's residents.

The 101 Things To Do website tends to repeat the same types of activities on all the islands. Most visitors feel obligated to visit Waikiki before they see a neighbor island, but I think the neighbor islands offer more of the "real" Hawaii than Oahu.
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