I’ve been “retired” now for almost 2 years. Wow! I can’t believe that much time has gone by, and it appears a window in time for me is getting ready to close.
Because my “retirement” didn’t go as planned, I found myself trying to figure out the next step. No new jobs were coming my way because of age discrimination and other factors I won’t get into for the moment. So, I set my sights on finding a new home and a new location, and I gave myself 2 years to do it. Fresh start. New life.
But there are only so many ways to stretch a state pension, especially when the state plans on imploding it. Time bomb’s a ticking.
Shock wave number 2, the price tag on housing has skyrocketed since the time I built the dream home with my second wife. And the crash of 2008 didn’t really help much because housing costs were so inflated by that time that they haven’t returned to any level close to being reasonable.
I searched all over the country. Systematically zeroing in on specific localities where I thought I’d like to live while comparing the available services, the climate, if the areas were reasonably progressive, and what the tax burden would be. Yes, believe it or not, you can really get screwed by double taxation if you’re receiving a state pension and you move out of the state providing that pension. Both states will tax you on the same income unless you find a tax-friendly state, and from what I could see there are only about 5 of those, three of which I don’t intend to set foot in.
And with the politicians looking at slashing and burning Social Security and Medicare, those of us with employee-earned pensions can’t count on much of a boost in income when the time comes to collect from the funds we’ve paid into for some 45+ years. The politicians have stolen most of our investment in the SS Trust Fund for other pork-barrel endeavors, and they keep shrinking Medicare payments leaving us to pick up the lion’s share of ballooning medical costs. Oh well . . .
Yes, the most affordable housing is in places where people generally don’t want to live and where services don’t exist. And if you find that undiscovered oasis, look out! It won’t be long before rich people discover it, take over, drive the home prices up along with property taxes, and the original home owners will become refugees, forced to vacate their home towns. Better move quickly.
So, what happened in the twenty-plus years that had snuck by since I built the dream home that ex number 2 took along with all the cash? One major thing was that wages have totally stagnated while the cost of living has been relentlessly climbing. (See my post Balance) And since pensions only provide a fraction of what wages are, the numbers don’t crunch so well.
But this trend is not just affecting people in my age group or who are living with similar circumstances. Nationwide, people are losing the ability to afford housing. The solution, being forced by sheer economics, is a return to tribal living.
There has to be multiple wage earners under one roof now, or there has be a form of piggy-backed housing on a single property where the multiple workers can reside. I see this happening more and more, and it’s taking on a variety of forms.
For starters, we are starting to see a return to multiple generations living under one roof. Grown kids are taking in aging parents who can no longer maintain a home on their own or who are ill. Additionally, according to a study by the Pew Research Center, 33% of young adults between the ages of 25 through 29 are living with their parents or grandparents. This is a three-fold increase since 1970 and is the highest in 75 years. These numbers span all education levels, race, gender and religion. It’s all about the all-mighty dollar. Who has it and who doesn’t. And these youngsters can’t afford to move out.
Another form of tribal living I’ve seen is simply renting out the spare bedroom, and not just the Airbnb way for short vacation stays. A dear friend of mine referred to this as taking in “strays.” If you know someone you can trust who can’t afford to rent an apartment, or much more buy a house, rent them a room. It all equals more incomes under the same roof. A variety of communal living. Sharing meal and entertainment space and time.
Increasing in popularity is the “ancillary dwelling unit.” These come with a variety of names including “tiny houses” and “granny flats,” and they can be framed units or a trailer, or an RV, or a modified shipping container. ADUs can be subject to various zoning regulations, and they may “stand alone” in the sense that the occupier could have separate utility hookups and waste removal. The common denominator here is the ADU dweller couldn’t afford a larger home on her or his own property, and the property owner sharing space receives some benefit in return. Expenses have to be spread out somehow.
ADUs can also be rented out as guest houses for temporary stays, and this can be an appealing situation for a home owner that’s not quite making the bill payments on time. I’m renting a place now where the retired landowners maintain 2 guest houses to supplement their income.
I can also foresee the restructuring of the traditional concepts of marriage and child rearing. Will we see a return of polygamy? I don’t know, but I can easily see 2 or 3 wage-earners living under one roof while an auxiliary spouse, partner, or whomever, stays home to take care of the children. Child care expenses won’t be outsourced anymore. Who can afford those? And, we may see more homeschooling accompanying this sort of lifestyle.
Regardless of the form it takes, I envision more forms of communal living as time and economic pressures continue. This may not be a bad thing in terms of increased socialization, but that’s hard to gauge too. Will it result in a bringing together of more people or the formations of small clicks walling themselves off from the rest of the community – compounds instead of homes? Who knows, but until the economy improves for the average wage-earner, I think we’ll see more forms of alternative housing and the growth of interesting social arrangements.
As for me, I’m now trying to decide between setting down roots or becoming a nomad. Or just maybe I’ll find a tribe to join. Time will tell.
Photo: This photo was shot by my one of my Great Uncles in 1928 when he was in the Army Air Corps. He was stationed in the Philippines at the time and he flew out into the jungle in a pontoon-style airplane, and landed to visit the native homes of the Tagalog. Over time, he rose to the rank of Major General and he played major roles in WWII and the Korean War.
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