Exit Strategy

at 11:43 PM

"Hello, I must be going."

That's the song the great social commentator, Groucho Marx, sings in "Animal Crackers."

It's also what's happening in the Bay Area right now.

You hear a lot about people who can't afford to buy a house, but what about the people who can't afford to stay in a house. Not if they want to retire before 90.

Could this be you? Has the house you bought with a big fat mortgage now become a big fat asset? To access that asset, you'll have to sell it. And you'll have to pay capital gains. And you'll probably have to move.

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Yes, the increase in home prices that has made you richer has also made it impossible for you to buy another house here.

Where will you go? How about Washington, where they have lots of water and no state taxes? Or Portland, Oregon, where they have Voodoo Donuts and no sales taxes? Or how about a place where they don't know the meaning of traffic jams? Are you feeling me, Greensboro, North Carolina?

All of these places have advantages. Unfortunately, not one has a Golden Gate Bridge, or a decent gluten-free Ethiopian fusion restaurant, or, perhaps even more important, they don't have all the dear friends you've made living here.

Yes, it's difficult to leave, but if you don't want to deplete your paycheck paying for housing, and private schools, and $5 orders of toast, or if you're reaching the age you'd like to retire, but the possibility of retiring is increasingly out of reach, your only choice may be to take the money and run.

What do I recommend?

Use vacation time to explore your possibilities. When you're not on vacation, take a cold hard look at what you could give up if you left, and what you could gain. Most important, don't dawdle. Don’t wait until you're even older and even more grumpy and no one will want to be your new BFF.

Will the advantages of moving outweigh the advantages of staying put, I can't tell you – yet.

After fifty happy years in the Bay Area, I'm moving to Bellingham, Washington.

As always, Groucho says it best: "Hello, I cannot stay, I came to say, I must be going."

With a Perspective, I’m Bob Goldman.

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Bob Goldman is a financial planner. He lives in Sausalito.

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