Retirement Planning and Living

Retirement can be a gateway to your own personal golden era. The key: A carefully crafted plan. Use these tips from local experts to get started.


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#1 Downsize early.

By the time we are 55 years old, we should begin culling through storage areas, says Carolyn Morrison, marketing director at Pohai Nani Good Samaritan Retirement Community. Ask yourself what you absolutely need to keep, especially if you plan to move into a smaller space. And make the process meaningful. “Instead of buying a birthday gift, give your treasures to your loved ones,” she says. “You can see the joy.”

#2 Give gifts strategically.

Seniors who plan to make sizeable gifts after 2012 should consider making the gifts before 2012 in order to take advantage of the current $5 million gift exemption, which allows you to give up to $5 million in assets to heirs gift tax-free, says Rex Matsumura, a Honolulu attorney who specializes in estate planning. “It’s only good for two years, 2011 and 2012,” he says. Matsumura also points out that the gift exemption will be $1 million after 2012. With the federal government looking at ways to increase tax revenues, it’s uncertain that the gift exemption will be increased back to $5 million after 2012.

#3 Meet your neighbors before a move.

If you decide to leave your own home, make sure your new community offers ready social connections, says Bob Ogle, team leader at Kisco Senior Living. Ilima at Leihano opens in 2013, but prospective residents can get a preview of the Kapolei senior living community by attending exercise classes, (yoga, zumba, hula) and sampling their other advance programs such as their Ekahi Club, which consists of future members of the Ilima community. The club invites future residents to get together for educational seminars (on identity theft, for example), for charity events and to provide input on the community itself. It also highlights member accomplishments, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.

Ogle encourages people considering a move to think about their proximity to friends and family, as well as their access to social organizations. Tour the campus, and sample a meal. “Talk to people who live there, because they will become part of your community. This is one of the major decisions of your life.”


Arcadia offers residents a full schedule of programs and activities.

#4 Weigh the social cost of aging at home.

The majority of retirees choose to live at home as long as possible. But as we age, the costs of maintaining our own residences can affect more than our wallets, says Jan Kaeo, marketing director at Arcadia.

The organization offers senior services ranging from home health care to day programs and retirement communities. One of the downsides home-based clients often fail to consider is socialization, Kaeo says.

“When you stop driving, you stay at home,” she says. “It can be very lonely. The benefit of a community is to have programs and activities in place that give a lifestyle with independence.”

Establishments like 15 Craigside, a 170-apartment community for moderate-income seniors that Arcadia opened in March, offer a changing roster of activities and classes, as well as the opportunity to resume long-abandoned interests and hobbies.

“We have worked hard to change the paradigm of senior living,” Kaeo says. “At one time, moving into a community was the beginning of the end. That’s really changed. It’s about living the best possible life. Our residents have an opportunity to accomplish great things in the last years of their lives.”


Kahala Nui's residents enjoy life on a 6-acre garden campus.

#5 Consider the full continuum of care.

You might be drawn to a retirement community with a full slate of activities, but it’s important to consider your future health needs, says Pat Duarte, president and CEO of Kahala Nui, which offers a full range of care options, from individual apartments to an on-site nursing facility.

“You need to really understand what the life care benefits are,” Duarte says. “We don’t have as many nursing homes as most states, so for long-term nursing care, the options may be somewhat limited. The first available bed may not be your choice. That’s one of the reasons a lot of people go to a continuing care facility.”

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