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Would you consider this a risky move?
Old 03-12-2008, 10:32 AM   #1
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Would you consider this a risky move?

Our situation is as follows. We are in our mid 40s and were planning on FIREing in June this year. It is not going to happen for 2 reasons (1) we haven't reached our financial goal, whilst we believe we could live on what we have, as we are going to be fully self-funded retirees we prefer to not find ourselves short in 20 years time. (2) we are not ready in the sense that we do not have enough in our lives outside of work to successfully retire. We see DH's parents in their mid 80s sitting there waiting to die because they never developed a lot of interests or cultivated friendships.

Our current thinking is to throw it all in and move to Hawaii to allow us an 18 month transition period to RE. Why Hawaii - well the warm water would allow us to explore a couple of hobbies we have briefly touched on and would like to develop - ie kayaking, outrigger canoeing, surfing and hiking. We live in So. Cal. but it is just too cold in the water here and add in my fear of snakes and our current location just doesn't cut it.

I am an accountant so if we moved to Hawaii there would always be some temp work I could do. I would only plan on working 1 week out of 4 to make enough money to pay the utilities and groceries. DH could probably work remotely for his current employer 1-2 days a week and what he makes would more than cover our remaining expenses without us having to take a cut in lifestyle. Sure we would be earning less, but if we could make enough to cover expenses that is all we need as we could let existing savings fester and grow. We would still be close enough that if DH had to come on site monthly, it would be affordable. We could go on COBRA for 18 months.

We would ship our car to Hawaii but put all our personal belongings into storage. We would rent a 1 bed fully furnished condo to see how we liked living in Hawaii on a trial basis.

So would you go for it? What holes do you see in our plan? We know all the usual about how expensive milk is (probably only drink 1 gallon a month) how expensive gas is (just about the same as our current location) so what am I missing? If it is as logical as it seems to me, why isn't everyone doing it?
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Old 03-12-2008, 11:06 AM   #2
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I say, "Go for it!" and I am probably the most risk-adverse person around. It sounds like you have given this considerable, careful thought.

Hawaii is as close to a home as I have. While living there I noticed that about half of those who move there thinking that they will stay forever, instead end up returning to the mainland after about a year. So, I think it's very wise to just rent and to be certain that you have sufficient funds to move back, should you have that need to do so.

Edited to address the question of "why doesn't everyone do it?":
  • Many people do not adjust well to living on a small island, and feel claustrophobic. They miss the ability to drive for four hours and end up someplace else.
  • Others do not enjoy the uniformity in climate (but to me it really didn't feel that uniform, because after you have lived there small temperature differences become more noticeable.)
  • Some people never adjust to eating differently, and if you are used to steak and potatos you will find that is a lot more expensive and less prevelent than fish and rice, for example.
  • Some people do not like the experience of actually being in a racial/ethnic/cultural minority, if they have always been in the majority (though Hawaii is pretty gentle as far as racial friction, IMO).
  • Some people miss their relatives and begin to realize that traveling to the mainland is a lot more expensive and a lot bigger deal than traveling around the mainland when you live there.
  • Some people miss the types of cultural activities, events, and exhibits you might find on the mainland more than in the islands.
  • Some people are appalled at all the over-building, and only see the concrete and not the tropical forest there is there too, if you know what I mean.
  • Even if you adjust marvelously to local culture and customs, you will not be likely to be considered a kamaaina before several decades have passed.
  • Many/most people find they cannot earn a living in Hawaii, since pay is no greater than in many parts of the mainland. So, if one doesn't already have family there to live with, or money to buy a condo outright, it's hard to make ends meet.
I'm sure I missed some reasons!
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Old 03-12-2008, 11:15 AM   #3
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Seems like a viable plan that you could easily unwind if things didn't turn out as well as you hoped. Ie - you didn't like the island life or the lack of security of big paychecks coming in each month. If I was in your shoes I'd probably make the move.

In a nutshell it is a plan to semi-retire.
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Old 03-12-2008, 11:15 AM   #4
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I think it is wise to plumb the liekly and possible downside scenarios. So what could happen that would screw you if you skip off to Hawaii for a while? Market crash? Not being able to resatrt your careers on the mainland or in Hawaii, if need be? Health insurance availability?

I'd guess the last one could be a real killer, but there could be others.
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Old 03-12-2008, 11:24 AM   #5
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If it is as logical as it seems to me, why isn't everyone doing it?
  1. Not everyone can afford to cut work hours/income as much as you can
  2. Not everyone can find their kind of work in Hawaii
  3. Not everyone can afford Hawaii, or be willing to cut back on the size of their house, etc, it would take to make the move
  4. Hawaii doesn't fit everyone's life style or interests
  5. Some don't want to leave family and friends. Hawaii is a long ways away. Maybe not so much from LA, but certainly from the east coast.
My reasons are partly #4 and #5. But if none of these or whatever else I missed apply to you, go for it!

It sounds like you are taking a low-risk approach. You can always bail after a year, or even earlier, and at worst you might have pushed your final retirement date a bit back.
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Old 03-12-2008, 11:41 AM   #6
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How easy would it be to find employment if things didn't work out financially? Could a downturn in the economy potentially stymie the ability to find a job. So your portfolio would be down and your source of income from employment might be a no-go at the same time.
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Old 03-12-2008, 12:38 PM   #7
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I think you should go for it. It sounds like both you and your husband have fairly employable skills and flexibility in (semi-retired w*rk) schedule, and the income will continue to sustain your living. That alone is a pretty rare, enviable thing. By doing a "trial" period you're leaving your options open in case you realized it's not what you want.

I think a lot of people shy away from relocating off the mainland because of family and friends. Others think their "root" is here and they will never permanently relocate. I live in Minnesota and it always puzzles me why most retirees stay here in the winter. To some people, hosting weekly family dinners and seeing grandchildren play soccer twice a week is more important than living in a pleasant but foreign environment.
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Old 03-12-2008, 01:02 PM   #8
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I'm going to take a little bit different tack on your question.

I think you should separate your decision into two decisions:

1. Semi-FIRE
2. Move to Hawaii

Both changes are significant and I can't help but wonder if you are trying to do both in a duplicative effort to improve your happiness factor. I have read on this board a long time ago that people who both retire and move frequently regret the move part and that it is better to split the two ideas up.

Depending on your financial situation, though, you may be thinking you can't afford to semi-FIRE in your currently location due to a high cost of living. I am not sure but I thought the cost of living in HI is not that much lower than CA. Nords?

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Old 03-12-2008, 01:12 PM   #9
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I guess I'm biased, because on our one-week trips to Hawaii (just got back from one yesterday), we always think "Great place to visit, but we could never, ever live there."

Quote:
Why Hawaii - well the warm water would allow us to explore a couple of hobbies we have briefly touched on and would like to develop - ie kayaking, outrigger canoeing, surfing and hiking.
Just to take the devil's advocate position, you are considering someplace that is hot, crowded, and expensive in order to pursue activities that you haven't done much of yet, think will be important enough to you to base a major life decision on, and can be done in many other places.

Surfing is good in Hawaii, but it can be a bit crowded (from our hotel room):

CrowdedSurfing.jpg

In a nice comfortable wetsuit, you can be plenty warm when surfing, and have the added advantage of being encased in a nice cushioning material (note blood from coral cut on my right foot).

NordsAndMe.jpg
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Old 03-12-2008, 03:02 PM   #10
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Have you ever thought of U.S. Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico?
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Old 03-12-2008, 03:17 PM   #11
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Have you ever thought of U.S. Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico?

Ah, if I didn't have kids...
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Old 03-12-2008, 04:08 PM   #12
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I was sure I wanted to retire (FIRE) in Hawaii. Have visited more than 20 times. However, my last couple of trips have made me really seriously reconsider. I have decided it's a great place to visit for a couple of months a year, but a terrible place to retire. Why?

1. Healthcare- Having recently had a small healthcare emergency, I became aware of the issues involved. Although I received OK care, it could have been better and I realized how very limited access to healthcare was there. Very limited. Basically, there are two healthcare plans. Outside of Honolulu, there are few specialists and few primary care physicians available.

2. Cost of living- Really going through the roof. Not only the real estate, but the cost of utilities, food. Yes, food. Electricity is amazingly expensive. The rates are about 8X what I pay here. The cost of milk and gas is constantly discussed in the papers.

3. Infrastructure lousy- The major roads on all the islands are overcrowded all the time. Traffic through cities is becoming unbearable- ever try Lahaina or Kona at commute hour? Poor city planning, poor zone planning or enforcement. Very little long-term planning for utilities, waste disposal.

4. "Local" problems. If you have been there, you know what I am talking about. It's too bad, but there are real issues with scoffllaw neighbors who leave dogs running about, don't obey noise restrictions, deal with all kinds of illegal substances, and generally make it known they really don't like you.

This is just a brief list off the top of my head. I think you really need to spend some continuous time there in a non-tourist location before making any concrete plans.

If you want to read about some of the issues, follow the Konaweb forum for discussions about moving to the Big Island. As they say, it's a great place to visit....
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Old 03-12-2008, 09:22 PM   #13
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Why Hawaii - well the warm water would allow us to explore a couple of hobbies we have briefly touched on and would like to develop - ie kayaking, outrigger canoeing, surfing and hiking.
I am an accountant so if we moved to Hawaii there would always be some temp work I could do. I would only plan on working 1 week out of 4 to make enough money to pay the utilities and groceries. DH could probably work remotely for his current employer 1-2 days a week and what he makes would more than cover our remaining expenses without us having to take a cut in lifestyle.
Welcome, DM!

If you haven't already (and for the benefit of others reading this thread), I'd strongly recommend registering at HawaiiThreads.com and re-posting this. They have a special section of the board (http://www.hawaiithreads.com/forumdisplay.php?f=61) for e komo mai malahini. You'll get a lot of suggestions from people who've lived here longer than me, who've had to deal with situations I've never encountered, and maybe even from real live accountants. What W2R said, and ClifP & JB may be along shortly with their own feedback.

Another suggestion would be to re-read the Hawaii FAQ ((FAQ archive) E komo mai Hawaii!), both vacations & lifestyles, looking for cultural clues or other acclimitization issues that you may have. For example what a Mainland person may see as nepotism or discrimination is, in many Asian cultures, family loyalty or obligations. Sitting around an office conference room talking story isn't wasting time, it's establishing connections and building trust. This next one might not be an issue for you, either, but it's worth considering-- you may be a highly-qualified accountant but if you're not "known" by locals then you may not get the word-of-mouth recommendation. These examples are all true on Oahu but they're even more prevalent/ingrained on the neighbor islands.

Finally, as Al suggests, it's worth living here for 4-8 weeks before making the moving decision. People either love it here or they hate it, and after that time period you'll know which category you fall into.

The south shore's summer surfing season usually runs from Mother's Day to November, but we've been having good out-of-season swells for the last few weeks. (Except for the week Al was here, but even that was livable.) Lemme know when you're ready to take that surfing lesson...
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Old 03-13-2008, 02:41 AM   #14
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We see DH's parents in their mid 80s sitting there waiting to die because they never developed a lot of interests or cultivated friendships.
Who is DH?

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Old 03-13-2008, 04:24 AM   #15
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Some of the negatives about Hawaii have already been mentioned. As someone who lives here, though, I second the comment about healthcare. It's almost impossible to find a primary care physician. Specialists are in very short supply and sometimes the one specialist in the area isn't a good doctor, so you may as well not have any. So, if you live on an outer island as we do then you need to fly to Honolulu for healthcare.

Also, the cost of electricity and food is much more than even the most expensive areas of California. Electricity is 36 cents per kwh and we have constant increases.
Gasoline is very high, as well.

As mentioned, depending on where you live the traffic can be a nightmare. Lots of DUIs and pedestrians are run down on a regular basis here. Very different than California.

The comment about locals is also true. They don't want you here. Lots of history around that one and frankly it's a reasonable view given the negative impact on locals.

But, the most common reason for leaving is that people miss their home and family. That and they find out that Hawaii isn't "paradise". When you live in a place day to day you find out that you have problems just like any place else. You still need to take out the trash and do the dishes. Magic fairies don't do your laundry. They find that it's not like their vacation to Maui--you don't lie around all day by the pool sipping mai tais, or whatever. Most people go right back home.
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Old 03-13-2008, 05:41 AM   #16
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I am an accountant so if we moved to Hawaii there would always be some temp work I could do. I would only plan on working 1 week out of 4 to make enough money to pay the utilities and groceries. DH could probably work remotely for his current employer 1-2 days a week and what he makes would more than cover our remaining expenses without us having to take a cut in lifestyle. Sure we would be earning less, but if we could make enough to cover expenses that is all we need as we could let existing savings fester and grow. We would still be close enough that if DH had to come on site monthly, it would be affordable. We could go on COBRA for 18 months.

We would ship our car to Hawaii but put all our personal belongings into storage. We would rent a 1 bed fully furnished condo to see how we liked living in Hawaii on a trial basis.
My overall feeling about Hawaii is it ia great place to live, but only a decent place to work. Currently, unemployment is very low, but wages are not particularly high (27th in the country). Retirement income is taxed fairly lightly while wage income is taxed high.

The good news is I think you'll find health insurance to be a pleasant surprise. Kaiser is $175/month for the basic plan ($20 copay and only 50% coverage for many tests) but still reasonable catastrophic insurance.
The Blue Cross equivalent (HMSA) was offering a catastrophic insurance ($3K deductable) for ~$100/month. It is true electricity cost are ridiculous and gas is the same as CA., but you'll drive less and unless you insist on AC you'll probably use less electricity.

It is more expensive to live here in general, and trying to live here like you would on the mainland city or even a So Cal suburb can be prohibitively expensive. Learning to live island style make's it pretty affordable. It is worth considering that average wage in the state is $771 week, so obviously plenty of people live here on income considerably less that what is considered acceptable to folks on this board. (including me.)

Still I wouldn't come here with the attitude that you can move here and work less i.e part time jobs and not see a considerable decrease in lifestyle. There are many many families here were the husband works 2 part time jobs, as does the wife, maybe it gets cut down to one if they have kids.


I did what you guys are considering I rented a very nice 2 bedroom beach condo, for 6 months before deciding to move my possession over here. I think I made my decision within 3 months to stay. There are plenty of people who move here and get island fever/miss the mainland.
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Old 03-13-2008, 07:58 AM   #17
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Who is DH?
David Hasselhoff.

Either that, or "Darling Husband".
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Old 03-13-2008, 03:24 PM   #18
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Thanks everyone for their input, it has given me some things to think about.

However some further clarification on our situation. In our 15 years of marriage we have moved 10 times and have actually lived in 7 different countries. We are actually Australian, so for that reason we need to be on the left side of the US. Too many years of trekking between London and Oz has put us well off of living on the Atlantic side. Also being Australian means we are used to warm water which is why we never even swim in So. Cal. in the height of summer as it is just too cold for us. Our relocation to Hawaii would not necessarily be our final one. It would be more of a transition to who knows where.

Re comments re the racial tensions/healthcare. When we were last living in Australia we were living in an area with a large portion of the population being indigenous so we have well and truly experienced the feeling of not being welcome. The last thing I would expect would be for the locals to throw out the red carpet on our arrival. I would never be expected to be considered a local as I doubt as if I would ever have the credentials. Re the healthcare, our last location in Australia saw us without any medical attention besides our primary care physicians. If you had to see a specialist it involved flying out to another location, so that doesn't bother us. My husband actually has a heart condition and we coped without having a specialist on sitet. Truthfully I refuse to choose where we live mainly based on access to medical care. We are only in our mid 40s and if we start making everything about our heathcare at this age the way I see it, we are waiting to get sick rather than living. However, I can understand if someone had a medical condition requiring weekly treatment making that choice and that may be a choice we have to make in the future.

With regards to employment, I am not one of those high-flying accountants, I'm your bog standard accounting manager able to do real hands on accounting work which probably makes me more employable than the high flying chap. I have checked out some websites and note that there is significantly less work at lower rates, however I am not after a career enhancing job that consumes my every waking moment. It would be more a means to an end than anything. I'm not overly worried about having to work multiple jobs as our investments generate a good income stream, so we would be looking for only enough employment to live off, rather than funding those investments with additional contributions.

I noticed when we were in Hawaii last month how expensive some food items were such as strawberries ($10). However, I am a big believer in living local and know that it can be done. I lived in Pakistan for 2 years and lived entirely off the local market. Went two years without a berry but ate plenty of mangoes. We prefer fish to meat so that would probably be in our favour.

The isolation of an island doesn't bother me that much in theory. Both DH and I grew up in country towns with very little to do. We have lived in remote areas where if we wanted to buy anything decent to wear you had to drive 1,000 miles. One thing we have learnt over the years is no location is perfect and it is what you make it. I know from having moved so many times it is up to me to find and develop my own social network as it is not up to anyone to do that for me.
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Old 03-13-2008, 03:53 PM   #19
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If you've moved that many times and had to adapt to that many cultures, let alone the fact that you're Australian, then you'll have no problem here.

The mangoes are blossoming now, so by July you'll be sick of them...
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Old 03-13-2008, 04:10 PM   #20
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If you've moved that many times and had to adapt to that many cultures, let alone the fact that you're Australian, then you'll have no problem here.

The mangoes are blossoming now, so by July you'll be sick of them...
Oh man, now there's something I haven't thought of in a long time. Mango rash.

DangerMouse, sounds like you have really thought things through and are likely to adjust well. Let us know how it goes!
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