On Golden Ponderings


According to Wikipedia, I have, at 35, reached something of a milestone. I am about to pass average life expectancy. Granted, the life expectancy to which Wikipedia referred was that of the Medieval Islamic Caliphate – but still. The hill has been crested and momentum is downward.

Naturally enough, like most other 35 year olds, thoughts have turned to retirement planning. Recently, I was asked if I would retire here in Ireland, in the land of my fore-fathers, or in America, the land of my wife’s one-father. It’s not something I had ever really thought about much. Where would I retire? By what criteria would I make my choice? I thought that I’d jot a few down a few ideas to assist me were I to opt to break up with Caitlín Ní Uallacháin and retire to the room over Uncle Sam’s garage.

The Criteria:

First things first. The most important consideration for any Irishman – or, indeed, anyone at all, is fairly straight forward and obvious. Automatically eliminate the States with bears.

This map shows the North American distribution of the black bear (in red). For those of you who think it something of an over-reaction to choose based on bears – allow me to explain … The average bear has to spend a lot of time eating meat to insure it consumes enough protein and fat to be in peak hibernating condition. It also has to eat a lot of berries and fruits to ensure that the body works properly and, well, regularly. If bears realised the benefits of an all-geriatric diet, filled as they are with prunes and Ensure, there would be trouble indeed. I would especially be in trouble given how my family tastes to bears (I’m basing this assumption on the levels of gorging undertaken by Wisconsin bears on my son’s soiled Pampers last summer). If a Carabini can taste that good at three years of age, how much better would one taste at ninety-three? Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, California – you’re all out.

The next criterion suggests itself: avoid states with high populations of ticks. The map below shows the national distribution of the Blacklegged Tick:

I’ve spent many an hour over many a summer in the American Midwest trying to tell if I’m looking at a tick or at a particularly hairy freckle. Now imagine trying to do that with failing eyesight and additional crevices. That rules out the entire East Coast and much much of the Deep South.

The first two criteria have really begun to help me to focus in on potential locations. The next thing to consider is temperature. Not too cold in the winter (I’m looking at you, Minnesota) or too hot in the summer.

This map shows temperature averages in the USA. You will see that the hottest places are marked in deep orange. I think this is the cartographer trying to tell me “Orange you glad you don’t live here?” Instantly, all of the US/Mexican border states are discounted. New Mexico is discounted a second time for having a high temperature score of ‘ridiculous’. An average in the 90s? Are you trying to kill me, New Mexico?

The final criteria I need to consider concerns the average cost of living. Where can I make my pension dollar stretch furthest and be able to afford that second angry stick to shake at things?

I had, up to now, been pretty much reduced to Arizona and a small corner of Nebraska. The application of the Cost of Living statistics, however, changes this. Arizona is knocked out of the running as it is, apparently, more expensive than a French Kiss from a hooker with gold teeth.

I return my attention to that one small corner of Nebraska – and a place called Scott’s Bluff County. It’s not excessively hot in the summer. It’s not ridiculously cold in the winter. It’s below the national average for cost of living. It’s the sort of place where a freckle is always a freckle and a mole a mole. And, best of all, there are no marauding gangs of black bears feasting on the sick and infirm.

I google pictures of my future homeland. It returns image after image of geriatric-hungry tornadoes …

Looks like I called your bluff, Scott. Back to the ol’ drawing board… 32 years and counting …


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