Friday, April 18, 2014

To Live and Die … Where?

        When I was a kid, the decision about where to live was easy ─ anywhere but my parents'house.
        After two years of marriage, the decision became more complex. In addition to needing to live far enough from our parents to keep them from meddling in our lives, we cared about job opportunities, apartment prices, and reducing the time we spent in traffic every day. We hated leaving New York City, but in the late sixties, suburban Maryland met our needs.
        Eight years later, we had two kids and a mortgage. Vietnam and Watergate had left us desperate to get as far from Washington as possible, and we’d discovered that 250 miles from our parents wasn’t far enough. Our first thought was to leave all that as far behind us as possible, but our query to the immigration people in Australia was not well received ─ they already had their fill of disillusioned Americans.
        In the seventies, easterners dreamed about Colorado and California, but Denver didn’t have an ocean nearby, and southern California was…well…southern California. San Francisco no longer basked in the glow of the Summer of Love, it was horrendously expensive, and its traffic was as bad as New York’s. Ironically, our obsession to leave Washington as far behind us as possible took us to another Washington.
        Life in Seattle was wonderful, but after eleven years there, our parents had retired from meddling and we felt the need to be closer to them as they aged. Entering our forties, we were far more career conscious than we had been, and to our utter shock, returning to Maryland was the obvious answer. Despite its unpleasantly evolving climate, high taxes, worsening traffic, and the corrosive effect of being so close to our ever more dysfunctional government, the last twenty-nine years here have been fine. But our kids wound up in California and Florida, most of our friends are moving on, and we’re both retired. Once again, we have to decide where we want to live.
It’s funny how things change. We’re fortunate in most ways. Our forty-nine year marriage is alive and well, our financial advisors tell us we never have to worry about money again, and we’re grandparents. We can go anywhere we want. We can have multiple residences if we wish. We want very badly to watch our grandson (and his future siblings) grow up, but we’ve learned to balance that with never making our kids feels like they need to escape from us.

Now, the decision about where to live has taken a strange turn. It’s starting to look more like finding the best place to die, or at least put off dying as long as possible. Maryland has the best concentration of quality health care in the world. We’re both healthy, and it’s hard to contemplate giving that up, but the seemingly endless winter of 2014 and gradually encroaching arthritis made it clear that this will be a decision year.

Last month, MarketWatch published an article called “The Worst U. S. States to Die In”. Not very grammatical, but informative. It turns out that we live in one of only two states that have both estate taxes and inheritance taxes, and Maryland has the third lowest estate tax exemption in the country. California and Florida have neither, and Florida doesn’t have a state or local income tax. But Florida has swamps and one of the worst health care systems in the country, and California has earthquakes, serious drinking water problems, and a bone-crushing tax structure. California has rattlesnakes and Florida has pythons and alligators, but they both have warm days and miles of beaches.
Why isn’t the choice ever easy?

AlanZendell spent more than thirty years as a scientist, aerospace engineer, software consultant, database developer, and government analyst, writing really boring stuff like proposals, technical papers, reports, business letters, and policy memoranda.  But trapped inside him all that time were stories that needed telling and ideas that needed expression, so with encouragement and cajoling from a loving baby sister he plunged into fiction.  Since then, he has written mostly science and extrapolative fiction with three-dimensional characters.  It’s the things they believe in and how much they’re willing to invest to preserve them that make a story worth telling.  It’s convincing interactions and well-researched credible plots that make a story worth reading. And, of course, like any writer, Alan loves having an audience.  You may find Alan’s books here.


12 comments:

alice wisler said...

Great post, Alan! We are in the process of deciding where to go when the kids leave our house. So much to consider, but fun to dream!

Claude Nougat said...

Yes, I feel for you, quite a difficult decision! You have the freedom to decide, that's an absolute luxury, enjoy it!...Even if it does come with anxieties of its own, no doubt about that.

Maybe you could also consider splitting your decision: get a big house in a pleasant to live place with no (or nearly no taxes)where your kids can visit you - and Florida may be a good contender - and keep a pied-à-terre in Maryland in case you need health care...

Linda Robinson said...

Love your sense of humor even in serious matters, Alan. :)

Annette Bergman said...

I have picked Florida! Hubby passed in January and I would have been snowed in all winter if I had stayed in Indiana. I haven't seen any gators in the park where I live, but I do watch out for the snakes. Being in the warmer weather helps and living in an over 55 park is almost like assisted living except your neighbors check on you instead of a health care worker. Great place to be. We call it Heavens Waiting Room.

Sherry Carter said...

We are - were - in the same position as you. We chose the Houston TX area. No state income tax, one of the foremost medical centers in the country, good weather year round, and a very reasonable standard of living. We settled in one of the smaller cities that are outside of Houston proper but close enough to take advantage of all Houston has to offer.

alan said...

Claude, you must have talking to my wife. Did she put you up to that?

Donna B said...

Wow! We're not quite there yet, but we have been talking about where we would move to when the time comes -because winter in New England is not a pretty place to grow old together. LOL I already knew health care in Florida is horrendous, and California is...well, California. We'll see where we may land although Maryland and North Carolina are in the running right now! But we still have years to figure it out.

Caroline said...

Decisions! Decisions! I just read an article the other day where a couple sold everything & travel year round as cheap, they say, as keeping residence. Hmmm.

Caroline said...

Decisions! Decisions! I just read an article the other day where a couple sold everything & travel year round as cheap, they say, as keeping residence. Hmmm.

Caroline said...

Decisions! Decisions! I just read an article the other day where a couple sold everything & travel year round as cheap, they say, as keeping residence. Hmmm.

Angie Boyter said...

There are a lot of things wrong with Maryland (and a lot RIGHT about it), but all anyone ever talks about is estate and inheritance. Assuming your spouse is OK, is the amount of tax your heirs have to pay on YOUR assets REALLY that important in your decision on how to live YOUR life?

max said...

My wife and I fully expected to have moved from northern Illinois to Florida by now. However, our daughter moved back to the area to get married and take a teaching job. Our granddaughter from that family will be two this summer. And our son and his wife live in Chicago where that granddaughter turned two this past January. So we’ve chosen to abandon our Florida plans for the time being. Could be we won’t relocate there after all.
Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Max-Elliot-Anderson/e/B002BLP3EE