Retiring to the Big City?

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article about how a small group of retirement-age Americans are rejecting traditional ideas about retirement in favor of growing old in major urban metropolises. While many people think of big cities as having crowded, dirty streets and crammed subway cars, many retirees are finding that these big cities come with perks. They can get rid of their cars and maintenance-heavy single-family homes and be closer to cultural institutions and a wider variety of restaurants.

After having lived in London for a couple of months, and then Singapore, I fell in love with city living. When we went to London, we took a limo to the airport, and the next time we were in a car was when we landed in New York two months later, and took a limo back home. We also never drove while in Singapore, but we did use Uber a few times. Everything we needed was within walking distance, and if we wanted to venture out a bit further, the public transit system was outstanding in both cities.

I’d be very happy living in either of those two cities, but they are a bit far from family and friends.

But it’s not like we have a shortage of big cities in the U.S.. New York City is a wonderful city, and I’d live there in a heartbeat except for two issues: 1) I probably couldn’t afford it and 2) it gets a little chilly in the winter.

Philadelphia is also quite viable; I know the city quite well, having lived in this area my entire life. Plus, it’s much more affordable than New York. But again, the winters are cold here as well.

I am sure there is no ideal city, but I do enjoy researching possibilities.

I’ve mentioned before how Sarasota, Florida seems like a wonderful place to live, but I’m guessing it doesn’t have the big city feel of New York or Philly. But it has amazing weather, and it now has multiple locations of the iconic Philly convenience store – Wawa.

So getting back to the WSJ article, here are some of the quotes and experiences from some of the retirees who have moved into a big city:

  • “Now, I meet people on the elevators, I meet people in the lobby and I meet people at the pool and at the bar. I love it.”
  • He doesn’t need to drive much, and he takes comfort in the security that comes with condo living: There’s no worry about someone breaking into his house and “if anything were to happen to me, the staff would be there to take care of me immediately.”
  • In the city, she’s already made a group of friends; their biggest problem is deciding which museum, show or restaurant to enjoy on their weekend get-togethers, she said. From her
  • “Snow plowing and lawn mowing and home maintenance and all that crap,” are now gone.
  • They enjoy being surrounded by the youthful energy of students from the surrounding colleges, like the Berklee College of Music and MIT, and said they feel spoiled by the staff at the building, who help them with their groceries and are at their beck and call call if they have issues. The proximity to some of the country’s best hospitals is also comforting as they age.  “I haven’t opened a door for myself in two years.”
  • “If we want to travel, we fly out of Logan and we’re home in 10 minutes. If we want to go get pasta in the North End, we’ll just hop on the T and off we go. If there’s a snowstorm coming, I really don’t give a damn because I’ll UberEATS something.”

All of those perks sound quite enticing to me.

So who knows when retirement will happen and where we will end up. But as they say (well, I say), planning is half the fun.

And there’s always the chance I stay right where I am, in the Philly suburbs, being sure to take a daily nap…

*image from Discover Philadelphia

129 thoughts on “Retiring to the Big City?

  1. Being a city slicker, you can live at ground zero. Gets it all over with quick, in event of nuclear war. You can also find yourself in the heart of the latest riot action, and perhaps sell Molotov cocktails on the side. It would be fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A crucial consideration for retirement is health care. Big cities offer better options for the most advanced medical care facilities. If I ever retired as an expat, I would definitely live in a big city for the reasons mentioned in the post and easy access to the best health care.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. All of the above…we have done it all and the really rural life is beckoning again…but I am not hanging a permanent hat there…Where I am now I have access to everything and the rural part is only an hour away but that hour could be crucial at some point in our lives…we don’t need a car here we can walk or catch a tuk, tuk or a Grab taxi…It is green here and I have my trees but also what I need so although the really rural life beckons me I am happy to get home 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thanks for your offering your persepctive, Carol, since you have done it all. I don’t know much about Thailand or where you live, but I just assumed you were living somewhere rural! as you noted in a comment on a differnt post, I guess you just got to go with the flow!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It does sound rather enticing the way you’ve laid it out. I suspect we’ll continue to live where we do. Our friends are here, and the climate is ideal (not too hot or cold). We live near the ocean and the redwoods. It has a few downsides, but overall we like where we live.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Jim, I love city life and museums and cultural activities. I would not consider living in a ‘back water’ place ever. When I visited New Zealand, I told my husband that I would never want to live there within 2 days of our arrival. I am not one for a pastural, laid back lifestyle.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. We’ve thought about this for a few years now and agree entirely about city living instead of a country village in the Cotswolds. Museums, galleries, libraries, restaurants, wine bars, what’s not to like in the big city? Well, let’s start with London, the knife crime centre of the world plus house prices that are totally out of reach unless you’re a Russian oligarch or a Saudi prince. I’ll stick to my drudgery of setting off for my early morning walk (it’s 6.30am here) across a couple of fields, along the River Thames, then back through the village for breakfast. The only noise we’ll get this morning will be the two B52s taking off at 8am from a nearby airbase (plus their return at 3pm). Later noise will be in the centre of our small cul de sac as neighbours meet up to share a glass of wine or two as we debate all the mistakes our government have made this week. 🤣🤣🕉

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  7. I certainly agree there are much better cultural options in the city. Plus eliminating personal transportation removes many headaches for a car owner. I don’t want you to go anywhere, but if you are looking for city living and great weather, you may want to consider Atlanta, GA.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have always lived in a rural area but fantasize about city retirement. For me, the benefit would be access to culture and events. Pittsburgh is appealing to me because it’s a smaller city with amazing museums and gardens. Life in the country can be challenging and harsh in ways that city dwellers don’t worry. Sigh. Perhaps someday…. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I lived in Pittsburgh for ac ouple of years, and I thought it was a great city. It’s got a lot of cultural options and a relatively low cost of living. But I think the winters can be kind of tough…It’s fun to fantasize!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I live in southern Ohio where we don’t get enough winter as far as I’m concerned. Haha. A Pittsburgh winter sounds fun to me!

        If you want to talk rough winter, go to Cleveland. That lake effect. Oof!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I am fair completed and really cautious but a lot of damage has been done by accident. I remember one particularly terrible sunburn acquired at the Ohio State Fair where there is practically nowhere to find shade. Sigh. This is part of the reason I love hiking around here – you can be outside and in the shade of trees!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I also think there is appeal living in a decent sized college town, such as Ann Arbor. if only the winters weren’t so brutal!

      and that was a good game; my students were in quite a good mood today…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. yes, there is, and it works for me, but there are advantages to each. I personally, like a bit of quiet space along with the busy-ness of a city

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I can relate to the attraction of big cities. I lived in the Toronto area for several years. I love good restaurants and theatre and other interesting events. My plan is to stay where I am for as long as possible to enjoy paddling the the lake and my garden, because we have a wonderfully beautiful spot right now. Then move to the city, although not a big city, the Dartmouth side of Halifax/Dartmouth will provide everything I need when the time comes because I can survive winter. I am sure you will find the perfect spot before you make any decisions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thanks for your insight, since you have done the big city living. but I can undersand the appeal of going out to paddle on a lake…

      I jsut have to do more exploring to see what the pros and cons of different palces are…

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Big cities seem so crowded! Running into people–doesn’t really sound exciting to me–and the crime is way up in most of them. But, you are still young. Crime could get back to normal before you need to retire.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. it seems to be a mixed bag; some people have tried city living, and enjoyed it, but it doesn’t seem like many are actually living in a big city. I can see the pros and cons of city vs suburban vs rural…

        Liked by 1 person

  11. We’ve thought about living somewhere urban when we retire. Our thoughts were more along the line of Chicago or San Diego, two cities we love. BUT the cost of living is high and the idea of moving then having to take a driving test to get a driver’s license is too much for me. Still…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been to San Diego, and it is beautiful. and the weather is amazing.

      I’ve never been to Chicago, but I want to visit, especially in the summer.

      I didn’t know you have to take a driver’s test if you move to a new state. Yikes!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I grew up in the city, right in the centre of downtown and it never fazed me growing up (I wasn’t sad or happy about it, quite neutral) but when I met others who grew up in smaller adjacent towns, they always saw the city in a different light, they were in awe of the city and it sort of made me see the city a bit different (I took it less for granted) but as I grew up, I realized it wasn’t where I lived that mattered, it was that I had to be near family (namely my sisters). So would I retire in the city? Maybe, I’m not against it, but will definitely want to be close to Charlotte and my extended family 🙂 The perks of having everything close by and convenient is nice though, must say!


    1. thans for sharing such wonderful thoughts. you’re right, the location doesn’t really matter if you’re not close to any friends or family. Perhaps I’ve romaticized what it’s like to live in a city based on a limited sample…

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I can totally understand the appeal of moving into an apartment in a big city when you retire, especially when you don’t have a lot of family nearby. Someone will notice you’re dead much faster if you live in an apartment than a lone in the woods.

    For a very long time, I felt like I was a city person. To a degree, I still do, but I definitely enjoy everything else that the city does not provide, too.

    Liked by 1 person

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