Why We Retired to Arizona

1981: On approach to Tucson International Airport.

The drab landscape below contrasted sharply with the lush greenery of Houston that I was accustomed to. Truth be told, I looked at my job interview with IBM as a carefree junket, born more out of curiosity than true interest. That perspective changed later that evening as I watched the sunset over the Santa Catalina Mountains. I found myself mesmerized by the way that light, color and shadow played across the mountains. I had never seen anything like it. I did not realize it at the time, but I had fallen in love with the Southwest. And the two years that I lived in Tucson only deepened that feeling.

1982 – 2010: Silicon Valley

Career opportunity took to me to Silicon Valley in 1982. My experiences during my work years in hi-tech were amazing: from the early days of Silicon Valley to the dot-com crash. Never a dull moment! While my career was my primary focus, I maintained a strong relationship with the Southwest. I vacationed in Arizona and New Mexico nearly every year. And I traveled to Phoenix for business. It was on one of those Phoenix business trips that I decided that it was time to move back to Arizona. After checking with my company, I got the OK to relocate. I found a housing subdivision being built out and put a down payment on a lot. However, at the last minute, I got cold feet and backed out. The timing just didn’t feel right. It turned out to be a good decision because shortly thereafter, I met my wife at that same company back in the Bay Area.

January 2010: Our Decision to Retire

Our decision to retire was triggered by several things. One of the most impactful was seeing how unexpected illness turned some of our friend’s lives upside down. That led us to set a goal to retire while we were in good health. Another factor was our desire to pursue our personal ambitions rather than our employer’s. This was especially true for my wife who has an abundance of artistic creativity. A third factor was that according to our retirement plan (we used Fidelity’s retirement planning tools), our financial resources should last throughout the duration of our retirement. We would not have retired if the numbers didn’t support it.

June 2010: Our Decision to Relocate

In the era before the Affordable Care Act, it was very difficult to find health insurance in the private market if you had a pre-existing condition. I remember my wife telling me that, after checking around, that no one would insure me in the state of California. She then stated “looks like we’ll have to move to Arizona”.

I located an insurance agent in Phoenix, who assured us that I could get coverage. So we decided to go for it.

August 2010 – present: Retirement

After multiple denials from Arizona insurance companies, I was finally able to get insurance in 2011 but only because insurance companies started to loosen up their restrictions in preparation for the Affordable Care Act. Not because somehow Arizona insurers were more tolerant of pre-existing conditions than California insurers. I remember feeling so relieved that I finally had insurance and so angry that I had to suffer all that anxiety.

Even though we knew the area based on our visits over the years, living some place is very different than visiting on vacation. I have to concur with advice provided by John Brady of Topretirements.com (my guest on podcast RJ 014) that one should rent before buying. We did not which led to a lengthy period of me second guessing myself. It took a lot of home improvement projects and self-analysis before I reached the point of acceptance of our decision. I had to survive retirement before I could thrive in retirement.

Now, 6 years into retirement, here are several reasons why we love living in Arizona.

  • There are a lot of people here like us, i.e. recently retired, moved from somewhere else and with similar interests. This has helped us to settle into our neighborhood and to make new friends.
  • What I call the Arizona lifestyle: outdoor living, lots of recreation and lots of warm, sunny days. Granted summers are hot but I’ve found ways to help manage the summer heat.
  • Availability of professional baseball (my favorite sport to follow) 10 months out of the year. Other people might say availability of golf or boating.
  • Outstanding shopping, restaurants and cultural activities.
  • Lower cost of living.

All of those reasons help explain why we are happy that we moved to Arizona. When I add it all up, I am grateful to be living my dream which was sparked by one amazing vision, so many years ago.