How much money do people need to retire in the islands?

Mainlanders who long to count out their golden years on a tropical beach sipping fruity beverages should consider the question deeply before packing up and moving to Hawaii.

The same goes for middle class locals who hope to make ends meet in their post-work future here — assuming they can ever retire.

It is a question that the website Investopedia has asked, and attempted to answer. It doesn’t come up with a number — perhaps because there is no uniform answer — but its does offer some advice. Its conclusion is that people dreaming of retiring to — or in — the islands should “take a look at the real cost of living in paradise.”

It is no surprise that a hub of investment-related stories is encouraging people to engage in due diligence before spending, but the article goes on to note that it “could be dangerous” for retirees to move to Hawaii if they aren’t prepared.

Hawaii rainbow

Flickr: Dan Zen

This got us thinking about the Keeners, a military family in Hawaii for more than two decades that was profiled as part of Civil Beat’s Living Hawaii series. They concluded that while they could have gotten by in the islands, it made a lot more fiscal sense to retire to a part of the mainland where they would be much more financially secure and better able to handle any jolts that life might bring. They moved to South Carolina this spring to settle into a spacious house that, at $180,000, cost less than one-quarter the price of the median home on Oahu.

The questions the Keeners faced — and the core question raised by Investopedia — are, according to demographic projections, only likely to become more relevant in the coming decades. Seniors, who represent about 15 percent of Hawaii’s population, are expected to constitute more than one in five residents in 2040.

That growing community of older people will need housing — and other supports — that fit their needs and their savings. A money-rates survey recently promoted by the AARP showed that housing affordability is the chief concern for people 45 and over. There are good reasons for that.

The Investopedia post goes on to advise that people don’t have to be in the “proverbial top 1 percent” to afford to retire in Hawaii, but they do need to be aware of the “often-astronomical cost of daily expenses in America’s most remote state.”

Investopedia also highlights the dramatic price variations within the islands, noting that rents in Hilo can be 41 percent to 67 percent less than in Honolulu, depending on size and exact location, but that other costs — particularly groceries — can be far more expensive on the Big Island.

“Brace yourself for the price of breakfast,” the author of the post warns, given that milk can cost as much as $8 to $10 per gallon and a box of cereal can easily cost $8 — about double common mainland prices.

Such eye-popping costs, the post notes, are enough to make you spill your milk.

Investopedia’s full article is here.

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