Retirement planning: The cost of living in Hawaii
Retirement in Hawaii! Months of travel in the Pacific Rim! It’s a dream that you may harbor, but how much would it cost? Margaret King and her husband and business partner, Jamie O’Boyle, want to know. So Consumer Reports agreed to help them price their dream retirement.
King and O’Boyle understand that to really get to know a place, you need to settle in for a while. The couple, who operate Center for Cultural Studies & Analysis in Philadelphia, help large corporate clients tailor their products and services to specific countries and cultures. That means traveling and acclimating to a place and its people.
King and O’Boyle would like to move their operation to Honolulu for what Margaret calls “a working retirement.” To make sure it’s a good fit for a permanent move, they first plan to rent an apartment or a house there for up to a year. King has fond memories of her graduate-school days at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu’s Manoa neighborhood and wants to target that location. Because she also wants to explore a potential business relationship with the university-based East-West Center, it would be ideal. The state capital is also a perfect home base for the couple’s other dream: a major excursion to the Pacific Rim, for fun and to advance the cultural studies their research organization performs. They’re contemplating renting a house or an apartment, or perhaps swapping homes with other travelers for stays in Australia, Singapore, and Japan of six weeks to three months each.
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We found several websites for rentals in Manoa. On a site operated by the university’s Women’s Campus Club, long-term rental homes and apartments ranged from $1,200 to $2,400 a month. SabbaticalHomes.com, geared toward academics, offered options in Manoa from $1,200 to almost $4,000 per month. The transaction could be a wash if King could rent out her town house in South Philadelphia for about $2,000 per month, the current suggested rate on Zillow.com.
Cost of living is another consideration. Numbeo determines cost-of-living figures worldwide, based on continual price reporting by consumers. Numbeo calculated that consumer prices in Honolulu, not including rent, are about 14 percent more than in Philadelphia. Assuming monthly expenses of $6,000 in Philadelphia, the couple could end up spending $6,840 in Honolulu. But because they expect to use public transportation instead of a car, their expenses could be somewhat lower.
In the other locations King and O’Boyle plan to visit, prices are also high. In Sydney, for instance, Numbeo estimates that they’d spend 38 percent more than in Philadelphia. In Singapore they’d have to budget an additional 41 percent. Tokyo’s prices are an estimated 14 percent higher.
For air travel plans, we consulted the TripPlanner at AirTreks, which provides an instant estimate of complex air itineraries. The site’s disclosure notes that it’s best used as a rough guide. For a circle starting and ending in Philadelphia with stopovers in Honolulu; Sydney; Melbourne, Australia; Singapore; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Tokyo, AirTrek estimated a total cost ranging from $3,043 to $4,199 per person. Peak and last-minute fares would be higher.
King has amassed about 200,000 points in Starwood Hotels and Resorts Preferred Guest Starpoints, which could earn her about two to three weeks’ worth of stays in Starwood Resorts’ moderate-priced, category 4 and 5 properties. The couple could stretch those points for more days in a lower-level category.
King’s clients include theme-park and resort operators. So her must-sees include Tokyo Disney, Tokyo DisneySea, and Edo Wonderland in Japan; Sea World, Movie World, DreamWorld, Luna Park Sydney, and Sovereign Hill in Australia, and Sentosa, a resort island in Singapore.
King can write off travel expenses such as lodging, meals, and air and ground transportation if they are exclusively for business purposes. Gregg Wind, a CPA based in Los Angeles, notes that deductible business expenses have to be ordinary (common and accepted in one’s trade or business) and necessary (helpful and appropriate for your trade or business).
Wind recommends that King take copious notes on what she does for research while traveling. “If you’re surveying people in the queues at the theme parks, for instance, write down who you talked with and when,” he says. “The more information, the better.”
Margaret King and her husband, Jamie O’Boyle, plan long-term stays in Honolulu and other Pacific Rim locations within the next two years. The estimate below assumes they can write off some of the expenses for business and rent out their Philadelphia town house in their absence.
A version of this article appeared in the July 2014 issue of Consumer Reports Money Adviser.
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