Dream of moving to the cottage?

You could say it’s a booming market: more Toronto boomers are looking to prepare nests away from the city as they edge toward full or semi-retirement.

And its not just cottage country. Southern and central Ontario, for example, have seen a surge in new retirement and adult lifestyle communities aimed at boomers looking to cash in the family home and escape the hustle-bustle of city life. Catering to this desire for a simpler life, some residential developments are more like self-contained towns complete with golf course, shopping, restaurants and theatres.

Is it for you?
For many of us, being able to actually live in “cottage country” is a lifelong dream. However experts warn that such a lifestyle transition comes with both rewards and challenges.

“Each year, more and more Canadians are retiring to cottage country – and loving it,” says Christine van Cauwenberghe, a financial planning expert at Investors Group.
“Cottage living can be a fulfilling and rewarding way to spend retirement, living life at a slower pace,” she says. “But Canadians should make this type of life transition with their eyes open, and a strong understanding of the financial and lifestyle factors involved.”

There are a wide range of factors that should be taken into account before making the move, according to Van Cauwenberghe. Consider the following:

Accessibility. How accessible is your property? If it’s remote in the summer, it could be completely inaccessible in the winter. This is especially important for those who may need access to specialized medical care.

Social lifestyle. Many cottagers enjoy large lots or even acres and acres of property — but will this treasured privacy eventually make you feel isolated and vulnerable? How much access will you have to your social network?

Operating costs. Maintaining a property in a rural environment can be more expensive than you think. Factor in the cost of maintaining private water and sewage systems as well as the costs of property maintenance (summer and winter, including snow removal). You’ll also want to take into account the cost of upgrades necessary to add the convenience of year-round living to a summer cottage. Property taxes may be higher as well.

Be realistic
For some people, the idyllic holiday in the countryside doesn’t always translate to the realities of full-time living. Take the case of Philip Howe who decided to take early retirement from a career in public service back in 1998. Fulfilling a lifelong dream, he moved to a cottage on Kushog Lake in Haliburton, Ontario.

Before long, however, Howe found himself disillusioned and bored. “I had a million dollar view, my own dock, sailboat and motorboat,” says Howe. “But time dragged for months at a time, especially during the spring and winter ‘melt down’ and ‘freeze up’ periods. It wasn’t exactly what I envisioned.”

Howe, who considered himself only semi-retired, also found job opportunities limited and low-paying.

Eventually, he traded cottage living for urban life and started a new career in financial planning in Toronto. While still appreciating the rewards of cottage or country living, he draws on his own experience when advising others considering a similar move.

“You just have to be clear what your goals are and know what you’re getting into,” says Howe, who is a consultant for Investors Group. “You should try to anticipate what your lifestyle and your needs may be ten years into the future in order to help you make a decision.”

Do you dare retire?
George Burns was once quoted as saying, “Retirement at 65 is ridiculous. When I was 65, I still had pimples.”

Many Canadians of conventional retirement age may have no choice in the matter, pimples or not. A combination of not enough savings and an extended life expectancy means that for many, full retirement at 65 is simply not an option.

This means, of course, that moving to cottage country, away from an urban centre or one’s professional network can be financially devastating.

According to a recent Statistics Canada report older workers are staying in the workforce longer because of three factors: a strong attachment to the labour market among baby boomers; rising levels of education, particularly among women; and an apparent desire among people over 55 to continue working, either from interest, financial concern, or other factors, such as the virtual elimination of mandatory retirement at age 65.

Yet this doesn’t mean that all boomers will keep up the grueling work pace of past years. In fact, reports have shown that many boomers who either need or want to work past conventional retirement age are finding new ways of working. A shift toward non-standard work arrangements such as self-employment is on the rise, according to Statistics Canada.

“Many older workers are looking for creative and meaningful ways to earn income,” said David Cravit, Executive Vice President for ZoomerMedia (and owner of this web site). “This could mean going to university to gain new skills, starting a small business in a new or related field or consulting full or part-time. For years telecommuting has been an increasingly beneficial option for both businesses and employees.”

So perhaps with a little creativity and a good internet connection, you might figure out a way to (semi) retire to the cottage after all!

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