The 'Couv'

The 'Couv'

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Amboy Ambitions?

The little town of Amboy is not likely on the radar of anyone outside of Clark County, WA. This is nothing more than a chippy little hamlet. As a retirement spot however, it has some interesting possibilities.

Amboy is much more than just the little town itself, it is a much larger rural area around the tiny 'one horse' village. This is an area where one might find that perfect 5 acres of Northwest paradise without requiring Warren Buffet's brokerage account.

Amboy delivers that "way out in the country" feel yet resides just about ten miles from the heart of Battle Ground and less than 30 minutes to the greater Vancouver area that supports a full dose of urban amenities, with an additional 10-15 minutes placing an Amboy resident in Portland.

Amboy, like its incorporated brother, Yacolt have a local reputation for being way out there. In reality, they are not that far out at all. Make no mistake, one does not just take a short stroll to the market for some milk and eggs, but one need not drive an hour to do so either. For the retired person, Amboy could be a great location.

With the Vancouver Clinic, having opened a sizable facility in Battle Ground, health care services are much closer and more convenient for Amboy and the rest of North-Central Clark County. Battle Ground has most of the services people need to utilize on a daily or weekly basis.

For the outdoorsy types, its close proximity to Mount St. Helens and the three giant reservoirs on the Lewis River are hard to beat.

Check out Amboy and retire to Washington State.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Schools and Retirement Revisited

I thought I'd revisit this from a post in 2015...

Henrietta Lacks Health and Bio Science High School,
Vancouver, WA
Washington State is very proud of its public education system. Although it does suffer from many government related issues, they are well funded and heavily protected by the state constitution's iron clad wording. There is no down side to a strong education system aside from it taking a larger chunk of the budget. Many seniors that no longer have children in the school system take a less enthusiastic approach. It is often the older crowd voting against school bond measures. So what does all of this edu-speak mean to retirees?

Retirees gain many benefits to a strong local school system. First of all a well educated population leads to high paying jobs that help the local economy. A strong local economy is good for everyone, including retirees. Secondly and often overlooked by those on the sunset trail, is the fact that a strong education system attracts families. Many retirees find themselves a great distance from their families and grandchildren. Washington State offers many wonderful benefits to retirees as it is often rated as one of the best states to retire in. It also offers some of America's best public schools and a strong economy. That means the family can come here to!

How good are Washington State's Schools? Right here in America's Vancouver we have nine traditional high schools,the award winning Clark County Skills Center, the Washington State School for the Blind, the Washington State School for the Deaf, Arts and Academics High School, a Health and Bio Sciences High School, two alternative high schools, and an alternative programs center. These fantastic public schools are not just limited to the 'Couv'. It is a statewide affair. Here in Clark County according to US News and World Report, we have eight nationally recognized high schools and two nationally top ranked high schools.

Education is not something retirees traditional concern themselves with, but it can make a significant difference in their lives whether by drawing their extended family to them or by enhancing economic conditions around them it is yet another reason to retire to Washington.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Dog Days of Summer Lazy

Yes lazy is the word. These last several weeks have been fantastic with nothing but delicious golden rays of sunshine and mostly mild warm temps. You just gotta love summer in the great Northwest. This soul soaking sunshine leaves one feeling a tad lazy so I decided to take a lazy day and rerun a post from three years ago that still resonates today. And it has a shameless plug for my book ;)

From this blog on May 8th, 2014 by Rod Sager

This blog talks allot about the joys of retiring to the wonderful state of Washington. But will you have enough to retire at all? Their are alarming reports that nearly half of all middle income earners will retire poor. This makes the low taxation of retirees in Washington less of an advantage.

Retirees should consider value opportunities if their retirement is going to rely heavy on Social Security and part time work. Washington State does offer some great values at the coast and even in close to the metro area here in Vancouver. Check out my beach information here.

The general rule has been that you need about 20 times your annual income at age 62 in order to maintain your lifestyle throughout retirement. Most middle income earners don't have even one year's income in their retirement account.

Many will choose to work longer, maybe until they are 70 years old. Yikes that may or may not work out. Planning for retirement is very important. I wrote a book about finance and I am not adequately prepared for my own retirement which in theory looms menacingly close to the now.

Downsizing your current home before you retire could be a great way to stockpile money for your actual retirement. If you are 50 years old and already in the empty nest mode, perhaps a major home downsize now is in order. The real estate market is showing a resurgence locally in that "big move up" house market. This could be an opportunity to take advantage if you already live locally or if these conditions exist where you live now.

Washington State is a great place to retire, but you still have to be prepared. Check out my book "Don't Panic" on

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Recent Market Gains Should Keep Retirees Cautious

Retirees beware, the fabulous stock gains over the last six or seven months could be an indicator of an overvalued market. In general retired people relying on market equities for income should be more conservative to protect assets designed to generate income. No one really knows when the next correction will arrive, only that it will arrive.

There is often a temptation to 'play on the beach' when rallies like this one take off. Retirees however should be prepared to leave something on the table to avoid getting caught in any downturn. Better to exit just shy of the peak than to exit at bottom of a large correction.

Young people have the advantage of years to earn losses back over time, retired persons do not. Large losses for those drawing cash from retirement assets will effect monthly income. Seniors are well advised to take council from professional financial advisers when making significant changes to their retirement portfolio.

Washington State has no personal income tax so take those profits fearlessly knowing the IRS will get a piece but Washington State will let it be. Caution is always a wise approach when nearing or in retirement. Even when you are in the amazing Evergreen State.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Townhouses can be ideal for Retirees.

For many retirees downsizing the big family house after the family has moved out is a typical decision. Moving out of the "family house" can be caused by any combination of factors. The big yard becomes a time consuming hassle to maintain and/or an expensive chore to delegate to the pros.

If the home is large say 2000 plus squares and/or has 4-5 bedrooms, this may be unused space when it's just one or two adults in the home.

Many people are tempted by the "condo" option. For some this is ideal in that you are only responsible for the space between the walls inside your unit. Condos may offer common area amenities like walking trails, swimming pools, exercise equipment, etc. These luxuries can come at a price usually in the form of high HOA dues.

A great alternative to the condo is a town house or row house. These can be reasonably spacious, usually have a common wall between neighbors and a smallish garage. They feel like a house in nearly every way. Often these types of properties have a small back yard that is easy to maintain and the front yards are routinely kept up by an HOA. If the common areas lack a lot of luxury items, the HOA dues tend to be fairly inexpensive. Unlike a condo in which the homeowner does not maintain the exterior structure directly, the townhouse is maintained by the homeowner. The owner owns the dirt underneath the unit and structure including the windows and roof. It is truly a bit of a hybrid when you think about it.

I believe these types of homes are ideal for retirees looking for ease of maintenance, a 'house like' feel and reasonable amount of living space. Town homes are typically priced well below the market for a similar square footage traditional detached house. Modern designs made in the 21st century often have double wall or heavily insulated walls between the units to avoid that 'apartment' feeling where you here your neighbors chatting at the dinner table.

I am the classic example; my wife and I live in a five bedroom 2500 SF house and we are essentially empty 'nesters'. I do have a son about to graduate from college so he may be back in the house for awhile, but his career path will no doubt lead him away somewhere soon.

I can sell this big house for a high price right now and move to a smaller less expensive townhouse pocketing a bunch of cash and saving money every month on the mortgage. A townhouse could be in my future, what about you?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Retire to Kalama?

Kalama Wikipedia Page
Kalama, Washington could be an ideal spot for retirees looking to get away from the city yet remain close enough to tap the urban resources including healthcare services. Kalama is located about 30 miles north of Vancouver, WA and is a rather charming town. The downtown area is located on the eastern frontage of I5 and the town is built up on the hillside. It features a mix of modest to very nice homes many with picturesque views of the Columbia River and the coastal mountains. The town proper has a population of roughly 2400 people and like many smaller cities it has as many or more people living in the rural outskirts as in town.

There are a great many properties located along the Kalama River with excellent fishing and nice views. The town has a mix of older and modern homes that are built on the hillside. Kalama for now, is an excellent value as modest 3 bedroom homes can still be found at or around $200,000. I recently wrote an article on my Real Estate Blog about the new La Center casino and the effect it may have on real estate in both Woodland and Kalama. Kalama is a value for now, but that may change soon.
Google Earth View

Kalama is close to services from both the Longview-Kelso area and the larger Greater Vancouver and of course Metro Portland-Vancouver. One downside is that there is not much in the way of medical services and mainstream shopping right in town. A short drive would be needed. Upside is that the downtown area of Kalama is charming and has some great antique shops and dining opportunities.

This great little town is worth a look and should make the short list for retirees looking for the Western Washington wet and mild side of the state.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Retire in the Gorge?

One of America's most scenic and spectacular places is the Columbia River Gorge. Who doesn't want to retire to a place like that? Well it is a great place to retire, but it is not with its faults.

The Columbia River gorge is a National Scenic Area that contains a plethora of state and local parks in both Washington and Oregon. The areas that lie within the actual boundaries of the National Scenic Area are governed by a bureaucratic commission. The commission is charged with protecting the Gorge as a natural asset. This is in essence and very good thing, however in practice it means building your dream home is nothing short of a 'Freddie Kruger Nightmare'. That said there are many spots that are shielded from this commission including the towns and cities of White Salmon, Stevenson, and Carson.

The Columbia River Gorge makes one of the most dramatic ecosystem changes on this planet in less than 100 miles. The West end of the Gorge begins at Washougal, WA (Troutdale on the Oregon side). At this end precipitation is nearly at rain forest levels with 70-100 inches in the areas near Stevenson. But drive 24 miles east, and you find yourself in White Salmon and the rainfall averages around 30 inches. Another 20 miles east and the average rainfall is in the low teens!

The Columbia River Gorge is windy nearly all the time. In the winter the wind is cold, very cold. Most areas in the west end of the gorge receive modest amounts of snowfall in the winter, but the totals are roughly double on average what falls in the Portland-Vancouver Metro. On the Oregon side which is in perpetual shade through out most of the winter the snow hangs around. Ice is a big problem as well. For retirees that need urban services year round, the gorge may not be ideal.

Out further east, past White Salmon the Washington side becomes quite rural. With the far east end as a sole exception, most of the Gorge has counterpart cities on each side. Washougal, WA and Troutdale, OR are the "Gateway to the Gorge" from the Portland-Vancouver metro. Stevenson, WA and Cascade Locks, OR, White Salmon, WA and Hood River, OR. But Oregon's east end city of The Dalles, really has no counterpart. Dallesport, WA is mostly industrial supporting the Dalles Airport.

Those wishing to live in the gorge at the east end will likely have to choose The Dalles and suffer under Oregon's draconian income tax. Of course Washington does have Goldendale, but it is up on the bluffs above the gorge, not really in the Gorge.

The scenery in the gorge is nothing short of amazing, and living in the area will provide an endless array of outdoor activities from kayaking, wind surfing, mountain climbing, hiking, waterfalls, downhill skiing (Mount Hood, OR), cross country skiing, camping and on and on.

The primary Washington locations in and very near the Gorge are listed below starting with the west end and working east.


  • Population 15,000
  • 15 miles to Portland International Airport
  • Precipitation 84 inches
  • Snowfall 12 inches
  • Average January temps 30 L / 45 H
  • Average July temps 51 L / 79 H
  • Premier fishing salmon and steelhead
  • Elevation 20-500 feet in town, up to 1500 feet near town

North Bonneville

  • Population 1,000
  • 37 miles to Portland International Airport
  • Precipitation 79 inches
  • Snowfall 14 inches
  • Average January temps 31 L / 42 H
  • Average July temps 53 L / 80 H
  • Skamania County, Bonneville Dam, Bridge of the Gods
  • Elevation 25 feet in town up to 1500 feet near town


  • Population 1,500
  • 42 miles to Portland International Airport
  • Precipitation 72 inches
  • Snowfall 16 inches
  • Average January temps 31 L / 41 H
  • Average July temps 54 L / 80 H
  • County Seat, Skamania County, Bridge of the Gods
  • Elevation 25-200 feet in town up to 1500 feet near town


  • Population 2,300
  • 47 miles to Portland International Airport
  • Precipitation 64 inches
  • Snowfall 17 inches
  • Average January temps 29 L / 42 H
  • Average July temps 53 L / 78 H
  • Skamania County, Mount Adams Recreation Area
  • Elevation 400-500 feet in town up to 1500 feet near town

White Salmon

  • Population 2,400
  • 63 miles to Portland International Airport
  • Precipitation 31 inches
  • Snowfall 26 inches
  • Average January temps 30 L / 42 H
  • Average July temps 55 L / 82 H
  • Klickitat County, Fantastic View Properties
  • Elevation 300-800 feet in town up to 2000 feet near town


  • Population 3,500
  • 112 miles to Portland International Airport
  • Precipitation 17 inches
  • Snowfall 26 inches
  • Average January temps 23 L / 37 H
  • Average July temps 50 L / 86 H
  • Seat of Klickitat County, Yakima Nation
  • Elevation 1500-1700 feet in town up to 3000 feet near town