Three retirement-centric questions keep me up at night. Also frequent trips to the bathroom, but let’s focus on the questions for now:
1. Have my wife and I socked away enough money for retirement?
2. How can we remain close to family in retirement?
3. Where do we live?
Question two is, naturally, a concern. My sister, two years my senior, is plotting her own golden years. My mother, still healthy and comfortably living on her own at 81, will eventually need some assistance.
Which brings us to the primary question: Where to put down roots, if only for a few months, free from Chicago’s bone chilling winters?
A two-word answer to all three questions may have appeared last week:
My 54-year-old body teemed with excitement upon reading that singer Jimmy Buffett plans to open a string of retirement communities featuring the title of his signature song. “YOUR NEW HOME IN PARADISE” screams the opening line of the website, which is already accepting applications for Buffett’s first planned community, scheduled to open next year in Daytona Beach, Fla., and featuring “NEW HOMES STARTING IN THE LOW $200s!”
“What do you think?” I asked my wife, as she peered over my shoulder at the screen. p
“It looks more like a Sandals,” she said, referring to the chain of “couples only” tropical resorts. “Couples only” incidentally is a more market-friendly way of saying, “WE HATE CHILDREN.” Make no mistake, the meanings are identical.
The Latitude Margaritaville website boasts colorful photos of empty beaches (even though no such beach exists anywhere in Florida) and couples who look far too spry for retirement, frolicking in sand and about to sip, naturally, margaritas.
“But it’s got Jimmy’s name on it, so you know it’s going to be great,” I said, thinking of the numerous Buffett concerts I’ve attended. The scenario is always the same: Like thousands of other “parrotheads,” I consume a few too many tropical beverages and spend two-plus hours singing along to Buffett’s most famous tunes. I even mimic a shark’s movements, thrusting my hands high overhead as he croons, “You got fins to the left, fins to the right, and you’re the only bait in town.”
“I’d need a referral before I committed to a place like this,” my wife said. “You know, from an actual resident.”
“I have an idea,” I said. Picking up the phone, I dialed my mother.
“Mom, what are you doing next spring?” I said when she answered.
“I don’t even know what I’m doing for dinner. Why are you asking?”
“I’m going to email you a link. Call me back with your thoughts,” I said.
Five minutes later my cell buzzed. “Who is this Jimmy Buffett?” my mom demanded, pronouncing his last name as if the phrase “all you can eat” preceded it.
“He’s a singer,” I said. “And his fans wear flip flops and Hawaiian shirts and drink Coronas with limes all day long.”
“And you think that sounds like me?”
“Well, uh, no. But I just thought if you were looking to get out of the cold next year, maybe you could scope this place out. For me.”
“So, you’re more concerned about where you’re going to live than the well-being of your mother? Thanks a lot.”
“That’s not what I meant,” I said. “I just figured that, if you liked it, you could retire there and we’d come visit. Who knows? In 10 years, and with your continued good health, our whole family could live there! Think about it, Mom. We could live that parrothead lifestyle. You know, starting every morning by slamming numerous Bloody Marys and then eating cheeseburgers for lunch. Cheeseburgers, Mom! In paradise!”
“I’m hanging up now.”
“No go with your mom?” said my wife, entering the room.
“Nope,” I replied.
“I guess if you want to live in a music-themed community, we’d better find something that appeals to her as well.”
I shudder to think what life will be like in Barbara Streisand-ville.