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Old 03-04-2013, 10:35 AM
 
307 posts, read 524,354 times
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Now that I am retired...but not quite settled in the very northwest of Washington state, at the border town of Blaine, started to look at photos taken at the assignments we had. One in particular, brings fond memories: Guam. Of all the places we've lived and traveled to...we made the most endearing friends in Guam. And the island itself is just beautiful...and easily becomes a part of you. Been wondering how difficult is it to relocate and live in Guam? I am not planning on working....hopefully I don't have to. If we can manage comfortably on my pension in northwest Washington, I am assuming we should do ok in Guam. We were there with the Air Force (as a civilian) and had all the living support structures we needed...in fact, we lived on base and had little to worry about except preparing for the typhoons that swept through or near the island occasionally. We didn't depend too much on the commissary when we were there...did most of our fresh food shopping in open markets found throughout the island. We are fully aware of course, that products that have to be imported from the mainland US or other parts of the world are more expensive than in the U.S. It would be just me and my wife. We have everything we could possibly need in a household. In fact, we probably have more than we should have...and working on getting rid of quite a few. Now, anyone out there...would it be realistic to live comfortably in Guam (we prefer to live in a small town...outside the Hagatna area) on about $4,000 a month (take home; after taxes)? We will probably rent for a while. We own our home now but plan to sell it if we move to Guam. We are in a highly desirable area now so it shouldn't be difficult to sell.
Thanks.
Frederic
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Old 04-06-2013, 10:09 PM
 
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Frederic, I am looking to go back to Guam myself in the next year or two for a third assignment. The older I get the more and more I like the place. I was there initially while on AD with the AF and then went back as a DoD Civilian. I go back once or twice a year as a military reservist. I am probably going to go back as a DoD Civilian as soon as the next opportunity comes up. I would have stayed longer the last time but had two kids that had to go to College and relocated back to the States. Now to your question. You should be able to get by on $4K a month. The rents have dropped some since the build-up that drove the prices up has essentially been postponed till 2020 and I do not think it will happen in the long run. You should be able to rent a decent place for $900-$1000. But as you may know the price of fuel has greatly increased in the last few years and the greatest effect is on your utility bill. Depending on how you use your air you could wind up with a $500+ light bill. Food is more expensive especially the meat. If you are not a big meat eater your grocery bill should be manageable. Eating out is also very expensive. Plates at Carmen's cha cha cha restaurant that used to cost $9 are now $22 so you really have to be judicious when it comes to eating out. If you have health issues you should not go to Guam, while it has greatly improved it is not a place with a medical system that can treat serious illnesses. There is only one dermatologist on the island and he works for the Navy. There are doctors that dabble in dermatology but they are not board certified. The island now does have a couple of Cancer treatment centers but I would not stay there for such treatment. But if you and the wife are in good health medical care should not be a big issue for you. Another thing that you need to consider is the cost to get off the island and visit the states. The cheapest fares now hover around $2K and a trip to the States could set you back a few thousand for you and your spouse. There appears to be a housing bubble in Guam so do your research if you are thinking of buying. Plus it is best to rent in any case because you might change your mind after a year or so. Politics there are still the same--Tammany Hall politics--the Guam legislature is filled with the same bunch of professional politicians that create more problems than solve them. Just recently they passed a law mandating Chamorro language in Guam HSs and provided no funding and they do not even have enough teachers certified to teach the language. They also have not had a typhoon in over 10 years with the last one in Dec 2002--I was there for it and am amazed that they have not gotten hit again. Anyhow, $4K is definitely doable.
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Old 04-07-2013, 12:26 AM
 
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I'm going to back up Tonga and say that while I really liked the Marianas, I'd be more hesitant to live there again the older I get due to the lack of medical infrastructure. Most of the doctors I've met from Guam were pretty good, but they don't have several types of specialists, and it can get even more limited if one of the specialists goes back to mainland for a couple of weeks of vacation. If you have a heart attack, they are not going to be able to cath and stent you at GMH. And while they would not be able to do this at a lot of hospitals in the mainland either, it would be much easier to transfer you to somewhere that can. In Guam, you are looking at a several hour flight, and being in a plane at altitude with a medical condition increases your risks significantly. I don't know what it costs now, but 2 years ago a med-evac flight to Manila cost $75,000 if you didn't have evacuation insurance, so most pts who needed emergent things that couldn't be done on island were out of luck.

That being said, everyone is different in what there goals for both retirement and life are. A lot of people retire to rural areas that don't have good health care either. Some of those end up having to move again a few years later to a metro area as they age and develop more health problems. A lot of people decide that being in a peaceful area that they enjoy is worth taking the risk that their spouse or themselves may die from something that would have been preventable in an area with better healthcare infrastructure. Now, if you've already thought about all of these things, then I'm sorry for being such a downer.

If your only question was could you find a place to live in Guam and live reasonably well off $4000, I think the answer is yes.
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Old 04-07-2013, 09:13 AM
 
Location: St Thomas, US Virgin Islands
24,669 posts, read 65,541,566 times
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The points made so far are on the mark. Living in a US territory is vastly different from vacationing there or being stationed there with US forces. I would strongly advise you (and you may already have thought of this) to do a concentrated PMV (pre-move visit) of at least a couple of weeks. Stay somewhere out of the tourist areas and live like a local. Look into the hospitals; take a shopping list to the stores and see what you can find there and how the prices compare; look at all the available housing in your price range; check auto prices and upkeep expenses; utility costs, insurances, etc.

I wouldn't make any assumptions about being able to live comfortably stateside on your pension to translate well to island living. Island living can be crippling to some people both financially and psychologically. Getting "back home" for family visits can be hugely expensive and the medical facilities are indeed a huge consideration. You may also find (as is true where I live) that even finding physicians who'll accept Medicare gets harder and harder every year. I've "lost" hundreds of good friends here over many years when they reach retirement age and just can't get by half as well here as they can stateside with the $$s at their disposal.

Good luck and I hope it works out for you!
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Old 09-15-2013, 07:00 PM
 
307 posts, read 524,354 times
Reputation: 290
Default Dreaming of Guam

Thanks to everyone who replied and provided valuable insight on Guam. And my apologies for not replying much sooner. I have been out of town the last several months. The info about medical care infrastructure is of particular importance as we have not had the opportunity to experience dealing with local health care providers; we were seen and taken cared of by Navy medical service during our assignment in Guam. I thought perhaps, a short trip to Manila where there are ample modern medical service facilities and excellent health care professionals (had my eye operated on there...with excellent results) would be a more practical alternative to this problem. We made several trips to Manila from Guam..and quite reasonable and only about 3 hours away. Faster and a lot cheaper than flying to Hawaii or mainland U.S. Anyway, thanks eveveryone...I'm still dreaming of Guam...and may just make the move soon as I can sell our house in northwest WA.
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