The Weekenders: Interview with an Undecided Retiree

Ellen's housboat in Long Island she plans to rent out when she's upstate

Ellen’s housboat in Long Island she plans to rent out when she’s upstate

Since we got our place upstate two years ago, we’ve met several people who have retired from working but who still live in the city during the week and keep a weekend place upstate.    We would like to think that if we didn’t have to be in the city for work, we would be upstate full-time.  But for some people, due to money or time or health or lifestyle reasons, the decision to retire upstate full-time isn’t an easy or simple one.   Our friend Ellen is currently trying to decide if she’s going to sell her houseboat in Long Island (pictured above) and move upstate full-time.  I talked to her about what factors are influencing her decision.

Kim: How long have you had your house upstate?

Ellen:  I’ve been here 13 years.

K:  What is your house finding story?

E:  My husband and I lived in Tribeca, but we liked coming up and we had friends here.  We usually stayed at Le Dutchess Anne Inn (now call the Four Corners  Country Inn) in  Mt. Tremper.  We would drive around sight seeing.  When we found this area we were enchanted.  We weren’t thinking about buying, but we ran into the guy who was retiring and he was building a huge house on the hill.   He asked if we were looking to buy a house, but we told him we liked the older homes.   He showed us this house and said “how about a place built in 1889?”  It was the perfect house.  Without being prepared or really looking to buy, we found our place.

K: How did you think a house upstate would fit into your life?

E:  We definitely thought it would be a retirement place.  We lived in the city and we though it would be a weekend place to start and a place for family and retirement.

K: If it was originally your intention to retire here full-time, what makes you doubt whether it is the right thing for you to do now or not?

E: Things happened.  My husband got sick.  We moved out of the city and bought a place in Long Island since his doctors were there.  We still came up here regularly, and we still had hopes to move up here permanently, but he passed away before we could really make it happen.  It’s still my desire to move up here full-time, but I have some reservations.

K: What are your reservations?

E: First, I’m alone – a single woman.  It doesn’t bother me living alone, but because we’re fairly remote and not close to hospital or facilities in case of emergency I worry about not having someone around if I need them.  My health situation might change, and the house is pretty far from emergency care.

K: Is having to drive everywhere a concern for you?  Especially as you get older?

E:  Yes, specifically night driving concerns me – even when I’m in Long Island – but especially upstate with the winding roads and no lights.  I had an accident in 2009 driving at night when the weather turned stormy and I couldn’t see the road.  Since then I haven’t driven at night and I wouldn’t unless I absolutely have to.

K: What about house upkeep?

E:  I find it easy to live here and keep up the house.  The lifestyle here is laid back and friendly.  My house is two stories, but the upstairs is closed off unless I have guests, so I use the main story.   It’s exactly the size of space I need.  There is more land than I need, but most of the maintenance is yard work, but that’s affordable to get someone to help me out with it.

K: You have someone who comes and does yardwork?

E:  Gary mows, he cuts down trees.  But he doesn’t rake leaves!

K:  What about friends and neighbors around?  Do you ever get lonely?

E:  I’ve made some good friends and many of them are full-time, not just weekenders, so during the week there are people I can hang out with and go shopping or whatever.  My other problem with retiring here full time is that I wouldn’t be close to my family – my daughter and granddaughters in Long Island.  Most people say I shouldn’t worry about that since they won’t be far away.  I think for a lot of people only seeing their children on holidays is pretty normal.

K: How does your family feel about you retiring up here rather than staying in Long Island?

E: They are a little concerned about me being upstate full time by myself, probably for the same reasons I am.  But they also understand that I really love it up here and this where I want to be.

K: Is there that one thing would help you make up your mind yes or no?

E:  Certainly the biggest factor in not being able to be here would be if something happened health-wise.   One other big thing that would make me feel more comfortable being here full time would be if we had cell service.  Obviously I have a land line at the house, but lack of cell coverage adds a feeling of isolation.

K:  Would there be something that would make you say yes, for certain you want to stay up here?

E: Since the reason I’m in Long Island is because that is where my daughter is, if my daughter for some reason picked up and left I wouldn’t have any reason to be there, so that would help me make a decision.  I would feel less torn.  If we weren’t so emotionally close, I wouldn’t give moving up here a second thought.

K: Is money a factor?  Can you afford to keep both places, or do you mainly want to settle into one place so you don’t have to do the trip back and forth anymore?

E: Money is definitely a factor because I’m living on a fixed income.  Money is one of the reasons I need to make a decision sooner rather than later.  My other issue is that my place in Long Island is a houseboat in Port Washington,  so it’s very unique and unconventional and I like living there.   It would be hard for me to part with it, which is also making it a hard decision.  To maybe solve the money issue though, I’m trying to rent it out using Airbnb.

K: We’ve been there.  It’s really nice!  It’s finally spring here, but having just gone through winter, does that affect your decision at all?

E:  If I was here full time I would definitely get a generator.  My biggest fear with winters is of losing electric as I did one time for four days which was horrible.  If I had I a generator then I would have electricity.  That’s my biggest anxiety.   I could be snowed in for days and I would be fine with my wood stove as long as I have electricity.

I’m a nature lover and I love the wildlife and the changing seasons.  It’s a very healing place.  I don’t ski anymore so that doesn’t affect me.  My family uses this place as a resort in the winter to go skiing.  They don’t come up as much anymore but when they do they have a good time.

K:  Any other factors affecting your decision?

E:  When my husband was alive, besides having full time jobs we bred Maine coon cats as show cats.  I don’t do this anymore but I still have a few cats here and I can’t have them in LI, so definitely part of my reason for wanting to be her is to be with the cats.

Thanks Ellen!  Readers do you have any tips for Ellen to help her make her decision, or do you have any stories – good or bad – about retiring to the country?

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