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'Stay-tirement' instead of retirement

An elderly carpenter works at his workshop in Havana, Cuba, on April 17, 2012.

We all know the American retirement dream -- after 30 years, you collect your gold watch, sell your home, and move -- preferably somewhere sunny. That’s what Ben Huggins did in this 1961 promotion for a new retirement community: Sun City, Ariz.

Ben Huggins: I finally made it. No more hurry. No more pressure. From now, on I’m going to enjoy myself.

The retire-and-move lifestyle emerged after World War II. Middle-class Americans had enough financial independence to retire to the Sunbelt. Men like Ben Huggins and their wives played golf in the morning and enjoyed cocktails at night.

Huggins: An active new way of life. Golf course. Activity center. It’s like a resort!

Well, for most of us, those days are over. Gold watch? Forget it. Retirement savings? Slim to none. These days, most people aren’t even planning to retire. They’ll work until at least 70. And because people are working longer, they’re not moving like they used to. Today retirement’s been replaced by “Stay-tirement.”

But staying put is a savvy choice because it reflects both a desire to work and the need to make money.

Here’s the thing: Jobs come largely from friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Workers spend years building their networks. And those networks are the key to a part-time consulting gig, a job at a local business or a place at a nonprofit organization.

So, come 65, a retirement move from the Twin Cities to Orlando, or Boston for Corpus Cristi, might sound alluring. But it will make that priceless community network suddenly worthless. And without the backstop to retirement that a network represents, the prospect of a long life after 65 looks a lot less comfortable.

Moving used to be a good investment for a retiree to make. But for this new generation of retirees, it’s a bad play.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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