Los Angeles is quite a place to visit. Every time I fly over the mountains and see the sheer sprawl of the area spilling to the edge of the Pacific Ocean, I can’t help but wonder about this area. Is it possible to retire out here – and would anyone want to? It’s congested. How do millions of people deal with the never-ending traffic? It’s expensive. How does one get comfortable finding an affordable place to live? It’s trendy. Can you really find good restaurants and quieter places to go for a night out? The weather is incredible and the Pacific is magnificent, but is that enough to keep people, especially retirees, in the LA area?
On a recent trip to LA, I met Sam who told me it is definitely possible to retire here, but it’s best if you grew up here and know the ins and outs of the complex system that is Los Angeles. It’s difficult to learn your way around if you are just coming to LA when you are in your 60s. It’s fast-paced. You need a car. The highways are crazy busy, and you’d better know how to get around – the drivers are unforgiving of the “newbies”.
Sam was my cab driver at the Los Angeles Airport and was as friendly as could be. He had just returned from a trip to Mississippi, visiting his aging parents and his sister. I asked if he grew up in Mississippi. No, he grew up here in LA. His parents were from Mississippi, but moved to California many years ago. They raised Sam, his sister, and two brothers on the west coast. But, when his parents decided to retire, they chose to move back to their hometown. As his mother and father moved up in years, Sam’s sister decided to retire and move to Mississippi to be closer to their parents. The three boys still live in the LA area. Sam said that he appreciates that his sister moved to help with their mom and dad, since he does not plan to leave and can only make it out to visit once or twice a year.
Sam is married with two children. He is clearly proud of his son and daughter who are both college graduates. They both remain in LA and are working in good jobs. He and his wife bought a house 20 years ago and they take great pride in their garden. Despite the five-year-long severe drought that is evident everywhere, but easing just a bit with recent rainfall, they have cultivated beautiful gardens with many flowering shrubs and bushes. He’s put a lot of tender loving care into his garden and enjoys working outside.
Sam is a middle-class man whose first career was at FedEx. Some 30 years of driving and delivering packages took a physical toll. When he was offered an early retirement package at age 55, he accepted it. He said he didn’t want to finally reach retirement and be so stooped over that it would be difficult to stand up straight and do all the things he loves, especially tending his garden. Driving a cab in the LA area he knows so well is a wise second career. He wanted something that was less strenuous as he stays focused on getting ready to retire in his mid-60s. He’s got 5 years to go, and he’s excited about it.
What plans does Sam have for retirement? A big smile broke out over his face and he said, “I have so many things I want to do in retirement!” First and foremost, Sam is looking to slow down the hectic pace of his life. He wants to relish the things he loves and have the opportunity to spend more time doing them and getting better at them. In particular, he loves music, especially Big Band Era music and jazz. He’s always wanted to play an instrument and even try his hand at arranging music.
On his trip back from Mississippi, he happened to sit next to an 80-year-old jazz musician. How fortunate! Sam asked the musician about his long-held dream: could an “old guy” learn to play an instrument, specifically the saxophone? The jazz musician said it’s never too late to try. But, if Sam found progress too slow-going, he should try the guitar or piano. As for arranging music, Sam is encouraged about the idea of learning the techniques of mastering chords and the range of notes within each chord set. He will start out learning some of the basics, then experiment with various musical ideas. It’s a creative process, so he is setting his expectations and is willing to try, try, try. The experienced musician gave Sam ideas on how to start, included online courses, tapping into the LA community colleges, adult education classes, and even offerings that might be at UCLA or USC for retirees.
I could feel his excitement at the many opportunities he’ll have in retirement. He’s looking forward to more bike riding, reading, spending more time with his wife, and continuing his growing success in the garden. Another smile blossomed when he mentioned one reason he’ll be retiring in LA: the possibility of grandchildren. He wouldn’t want to miss that part of his future. He’s clearly ready to embrace all that retirement has to offer here in his hometown.
What dreams have you put aside and might just want to pursue in retirement?
For More Information:
Interested in pursuing a dream like music and learning to play an instrument? Retirement may be just the best time to give it a try!
Musical U – An online community to help you learn to play music and encourage your learning in retirement
Berklee School of Music has a wide range of free online music courses – check them out!