How to verify/roadtest an ER budget?

brewer12345

Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso) Give me a forum ...
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DW and I are toying with a relocation and semi ER, likely 2 to 4 years in the future. I have drawn up what I believe to be a realistic budget, but since I don't actually live in the area and currently foot lots of work-related expenses, I don't truly know that I am right on the numbers. Any ideas on how to be more-or-less sure? I pumped DW's relatives for as much info as possible without completely tipping my hand (haven't made a decision and don't really want to spill the beans yet).
 
"Retirement Places Rated" by David Savageau has some good stats on different retirement locations.
 
brewer12345 said:
DW and I are toying with a relocation and semi ER, likely 2 to 4 years in the future. I have drawn up what I believe to be a realistic budget, but since I don't actually live in the area and currently foot lots of work-related expenses, I don't truly know that I am right on the numbers. Any ideas on how to be more-or-less sure? I pumped DW's relatives for as much info as possible without completely tipping my hand (haven't made a decision and don't really want to spill the beans yet).

Short of taking a long weekend vacation to the place you're thinking of, here are a few suggestions:

Groceries - find out which grocery stores serve the city. Go to their webpages. Look at their weekly circulars, and compare to your city. Do the same for restaurants (non-chain). While not many local restaurants have webpages, a few do.

Utilities - you should be able to find unit rates on all utilities on the respective utilities' homepages

Taxes - while every locality varies, you should be able to get approximations by searching a few municipalities' homepages for real estate, sales, other taxes.

Insurance - Instant health insurance quotes are available on-line. Plug in a zip code in the area to get some quotes. You can probably get some approximate quotes for auto/homeowners/other insurance as well.

Events - places like ticketmaster should have a huge library on available tickets to a variety of events. Even though you may not buy from them, they should show you the face value of the ticket, which shouldn't vary by much between vendors.

Edumacation - most private schools list tuition on-line. Same for universities/colleges.

Health Care/Nursing Care Facilities - no idea on this one. Haven't shopped around for them, and I doubt assisted living facilities advertise their prices on their webpages :) (but, you never know...)

Fuel - you should be able to find average fuel costs on-line for the target city.

Homes - fsbo (for sale by owner.com) should give you a good idea of real estate for the city).

You can ask people for general cost comparison, but unless they are VERY similar in their financial ways to your family, the data could be meaningless. Not only could they vary in quality ("I always buy name-brand, because it makes me feel superior"), but the budget items could be different as well (spending a lot of money on sporting/other events, versus watching events on tv and riding a bicycle through state parks). Because this will possibly impact the next 50 years of your family's life, it would be best if you could obtain actual prices on the actual items you'd be buying, rather than working with indexes that may or may not match your specific budgets.

Any other areas of your budget that are 'significant' (more than 5%)?
 
Why don't you tell this board where you are considering ? That way you can get some first hand advice from people who live there.
 
You currently live in Central TX right? Where are you thinking of moving too?

Audrey
 
None of these is purely a budgeting tool, but since the thread has gone this way, here is a hodgepodge of links I have accumulated over time. These constitute my top secret tool kit for my own eventual relo, so if you get to that ideal place before I do, you owe me a beer when I get there myself!

Real estate search engine and valuation:

Zillow:
http://www.Zillow.com

Realtor:
http://www.Realtor.com
(learn to use the advanced search to set your parameters, and extend your are of interest)

ABC - better than Zillow?
http://www1.realestateabc.com/home-values/

Mapping:
"Live Search" Gawd I do hate Bill, but this site blows Google maps and map quest away. If you get an area which has the 3D fly over mapped, it is amazing!
http://maps.live.com/

Terrafly:
http://tinyurl.com/2pctfl
(scroll down to see the wealth of demographics you get)

Sperling Best Places:
http://www.bestplaces.net/

Hospitals Worldwide:
http://www.hospitalsworldwide.com/

Taxes in various places:
http://money.cnn.com/pf/features/lists/taxesbystate2004/

Totally cool zipcode tool - easier to use than describe:
http://acg.media.mit.edu/people/fry/zipdecode/
 
After about 4 family relocations over the decades, I've found that the housing decision trumps everything else (as far as finances, that is). Sure you can include property taxes, insurance, state sales tax, but in the end -- especially with kids who need good schools -- you pretty much pay it one way or another and the differences have kind of come out in the wash. Other staples such as food, gasoline, etc. make some difference but in the end, it's housing costs (and maybe state income tax to a lesser extent).

It's obviously far more than just a financial decision, but that's our experience on the cost side.
 
Wecome back from your trip!

If you are thinking of moving to Boulder, let me know - that is on my short-list!

Modify to add: I don't know about cost, just lifestyle. :)
 
Rich_in_Tampa said:
I've found that the housing decision trumps everything else (as far as finances

Yep. When my folks retired to northern Arkansas and the family and I started visiting on vacations to fish and enjoy the outdoors, I started investigating retirement possibilities for DW and I. It all boiled down to housing. Much cheaper there. Most everything else was moderately more expensive than northern urbanland, by small amounts.
 
Rich_in_Tampa said:
Sure you can include property taxes, insurance, state sales tax, but in the end -- especially with kids who need good schools -- you pretty much pay it one way or another and the differences have kind of come out in the wash. Other staples such as food, gasoline, etc. make some difference but in the end, it's housing costs (and maybe state income tax to a lesser extent).

It's obviously far more than just a financial decision, but that's our experience on the cost side.

No doubt about it, every state is going to get their "pound of flesh" in one form or another. ;)

Based on my personal experience, the folks that I have known that based retirement locations from the perspective that "I can live cheaper there", didn't end well.

In fly-fishing jargon, "match the hatch", comes to mind.

Thinking about it, retirement is probably the first time in most peoples lives that they have an opportunity to live in an area that will match up well with their personal values and the recreation that is available.

IMHO, that easily trumps the perceived "savings".
 
audreyh1 said:
You currently live in Central TX right? Where are you thinking of moving too?

Audrey

Brewer is currently in New Joisey, but is thinking of moving to Crawford... :LOL:
 
Texas, heh. Nope, central NJ at the moment. The area we are thinking about is Denver. Boulder is nice, but too pricy.

Housing is pretty easy to tell. Tuition is also easy. Health insurance seems pretty straight-forward, at least to get a ballpark at ehealthinsurance.com. Groceries and taxes aren't that hard to figure out. I will have to go look at utility sites for unit rates - good idea.

I guess I just wonder if I am missing an elephant in the room, since cost of living appears to be a lot lower. Aside from liking the area, the lower COL potentially shaves 5 to 8 years off my need to work hard. So I cannot help but wonder where the catch is.
 
brewer12345 said:
So I cannot help but wonder where the catch is.

All the money you will blow on lift tickets :LOL:

My folks have a vacation home near Denver, it's such a wonderful city. One of my best friends moved there from DC to work on a political campaign and never left he just loves it so much.
 
saluki9 said:
All the money you will blow on lift tickets :LOL:

Well, since none of us ski, I suspect we are safe from that particular terror.
 
HFWR said:
Brewer is currently in New Joisey, but is thinking of moving to Crawford... :LOL:

ok...he is thinking of moving from texas to boulder....in that case, hang onto your cowboy hat, tex...them Chinook winds have taken many a hat ;)
 
brewer12345 said:
Well, since none of us ski, I suspect we are safe from that particular terror.

Not yet you don't. Just wait until you get there! In all truth, for locals it can be one of the cheapest forms of family entertainment. Like a lot of places, they soak the tourists and give the locals season passes for cheap.

Hopefully you do have some outdoor activities, I don't think they will let you live there if you don't?

In all seriousness, I would do some research into all the little things that you pay for when you live anywhere. Find the DMV website and see how much plates and registration fees are. I would ask your current insurance company for quotes based on your chosen zip code. Call the utilities and find their current rates per gallon, therm, Kwatt, etc. Property taxes and income tax info is easy to find.

I would also use the calculator from the CFA institute to see what investment jobs are paying out there. There are plenty of fund companies in Denver where I'm sure you could get a M-F 9-5 job with decent benefits.
 
saluki9 said:
All the money you will blow on lift tickets :LOL:

My folks have a vacation home near Denver, it's such a wonderful city. One of my best friends moved there from DC to work on a political campaign and never left he just loves it so much.

I can see living in Boulder, on one of the streets in the old town near the Boulderado Hotel, that would be wonderful. I'd keep well away from the CU campus. I don't understand the enthusiasm for Denver, it strikes me as a pretty boring city, nice ballpark though.
 
saluki9 said:
I would also use the calculator from the CFA institute to see what investment jobs are paying out there. There are plenty of fund companies in Denver where I'm sure you could get a M-F 9-5 job with decent benefits.

Actually, the thought is that in a few years we should have a large enough stash to semi-retire. DW and I would probably pursue our chosen professions on a PT, sole proprietor basis that could be dialled up or down as we wished. DW already does this with her counseling business, and i think I could do it with a fee-based planner business. But its nice to know there are full-time gigs out there if I need one.
 
REWahoo! said:
Careful there Audrey. You're gonna make brewer blow a gasket!! :D
I thought she confused Brewer with you... not that there's anything wrong with that!

brewer12345 said:
I guess I just wonder if I am missing an elephant in the room, since cost of living appears to be a lot lower. Aside from liking the area, the lower COL potentially shaves 5 to 8 years off my need to work hard. So I cannot help but wonder where the catch is.
You live in NJ and work in NYC-- just about everywhere else in America is cheaper!!

I suspect that Denver won't pay as well for what you do in NYC. But you'll still come out ahead.
 
I suspect that Denver won't pay as well for what you do in NYC. But you'll still come out ahead.
[/quote]

You'll probably have a less stressful and happier life as well. DH does a lot of business in Denver and says that Friday at noon a lot folks leave work and head for the mountains. It's not about being a workaholic in Denver, its about balance and enjoying life!
 
I'd think that if you track all your expenses with careful categorization, you can then do a pretty good estimate how each category will be different.

Here's the spreadsheet that I did after we moved to the boonies from the SF bay area (in 1999). Note that a lot of things change when you semi retire. In our case, DW retired at this point, so we had to pay our own health insurance, we eliminated maid and life insurance on DW, we paid off the mortgage. We had an antenna instead of cable before me moved.

Adjusted for inflation, the savings would be $13,700.
 

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