Millennials, make the move to affordable intergenerational active communities in New Brunswick now. Affordable living in a the relaxed lifestyle mode where there are jobs waiting to be filled by "newbies" and business opportunities for budding entreprene
I’m a boomer. I followed the traditional route of many lads born and brought up in Saint John, New Brunswick and moved to Toronto, a bustling urban centre of four million, to embark on a professional career. It was the smart thing to do in that era. I became a college law professor. It was a tenured position in a unionized environment with a guaranteed cost of living adjustment, extended health care and a generous defined pension benefit plan. My wife and I bought a condominium at a very attractive price in the heart of downtown Toronto on the waterfront at historic St. Lawrence Market and “lived life to the fullest”.
That was way back then. Eleven years ago, the college offered me a very generous early retirement package with health benefits that was too good to refuse. It was also a very good deal for the college. My replacements were two lawyers hired on an hourly contract basis with no benefits or participation in a pension plan. It marked the beginning of the “now generation” for millennials entering into professional college teaching careers in an emergent “gig” economy.
We decided to sell our downtown condo. The deposit the couple put down for the condo purchase was as much as we had paid for full ownership back then. But this was now. However, their salaries hadn’t quadrupled and both them and us were aware that paying for a downtown lifestyle was going to be a financial stretch that little room for building a nest a savings nest egg for retirement.
We relocated to a 55+ active retirement community in Guelph, an attractive university town, on the edge of what is now the Greater Toronto Hamilton area (GTHA) with a population that was in the process of ballooning to seven million with congested multi-lane highways. We had a wonderful early active retirement life in our 55+ community. However, at age 70 we decided that it was time to “come home” and embrace intergenerational active community living in a small town. We put our condo up for sale at double the price we paid for it. Not surprisingly, in the frenzied property market in the GTHA, we were presented with an offer we couldn’t refuse on the first day.
However, the couple who purchased it were well beyond the 55+ gen x/ millennial age category. “Freedom 55” is dream wish in the increasingly congested GTHA for millennials and genx struggling to stay alive, never mind thrive, in the emergent “gig” economy.
They were boomers in 70+age category and representative of the cohort who had bought in at age 55 twenty years ago but were now actively aging as a new generation of 70+ active retirees. A high end 55+ active retirement community was beyond the price range of millennials. Buying in was now reserved for well healed people like us (PLUs). Like me, the husband had migrated to Toronto from an east coast town 50 years ago to get started on a stable long-term management career in an established company gravitating to a senior position that had a generous defined benefit pension program. That, along with the sale of a home they had purchased back then but sold now in a skyrocketing real estate market enabled them to embrace a quality active retirement lifestyle.
Both my wife and I had always been enthralled with historic Saint Andrews by the Sea on the Bay of Fundy. It’s an eclectic small town intergenerational active community. It’s a convenient drive into Saint John to visit family. We’ve decided to build a customized modular home with a stand- alone guest suite for visits by family and friends and stained -glass studio for my wife along with space for an activities/games room. Should we require personalized care in the future the guest suite can accommodate an in-house care giver. Compared to the cost of living in the GTHA it was all very affordable.
By the way, if we want to have an Ontario chat all we need to do is knock on the door of several of our neighbours. Like my wife and I they’ve come home after pursuing successful professional careers in Ontario to embrace that very special culture of active community living in a small town with its walkable main street hub and family operated businesses. And it’s very easy to do since only family owned businesses can operate in the town hub.
What I’ve just recounted is nothing new. You’re probably aware of this from clicking into social media sites. If you’re a genx/ millennial this is a dream that’s years down the road from being pursued, or so you hope. Moreover, if you live in congested urban centre the cost and stress of living in that environment is just not going to enable you to transition into active retirement living in an idyllic intergenerational small town down the road when the time comes if it ever does.
And you’re probably right which is why you should look at making the transition to affordable small-town active community living now. It can be done and is being done by an increasing number of millennials/genx. Here are two quick case studies.
Small town merchants invariably like to chat you up when you’re in their store. One day while in the liquor store a manager, a millennial, told me about how enjoyable life was since she had relocated to Saint Andrews from Vancouver. She had been transferred from the east coast to Vancouver by a national retailer to be a regional manager. It was a good job but the cost and pace of living made she and her spouse realize that congested urban living was the source of constant stress in their lives. They relocated to Saint Andrews where a stress-free job with less money went a much longer way in this small east coast town enabling them to buy an affordable family home and support a comfortable standard of living. She had got out in time to start “living life to the fullest”.
Small east coast towns have aging populations. Down the street a millennial husband and wife team who had migrated from an east coast small town to the oil patch in Alberta had scrapped together enough money to relocate to Saint Andrews to take over a family restaurant. This was a venture that would have required an investment of big money in a big city but was doable with a nest egg in a small town. It was dream come true time for them.
Then there’s the construction team that’s assembling our modular home. These are all, relatively speaking, young men with skilled trade qualifications who had for one reason of another decided to eschew the lure of big city life and earn good money and lead an active life in a small-town environment. The message here is that if you have a skilled trade or professional qualification there’s a market for your talent in small towns.
As I stroll along the main street hub I get a first -hand look at the number of millennials/genx, the next generation of retirees, getting a head start on intergenerational active community living by relocating to small east coast towns now. And their numbers are growing. Why not join those in the know?
John G. Kelly
Mentoring & Counselling