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An illogical thought that refuses to go away is what if I die at age 70 and never get to enjoy retirement?

It may not be illogical, depending on your health conditions--are they mainly annoying and well controlled or serious and apt to shorten your life? (you don't need to post an answer to that-) If I had a life-threatening condition, I'd retire sooner rather than later unless my job was my raison d'être.

Social Security benefits are designed to be actuarially equal no matter what age you start collecting. In other words, you end up with the same total amount of $$$ over the years whenever you retire between age 62 and full retirement age, IF you live an average lifespan. If you live longer, delaying the start of SS works out better financially--much better if you start collecting at 70 and live to 100. But not necessarily emotionally or physically better if you miss years of happy retirement. So whether you retire at 62 or 66 and 4 months or some time in between, you will have collected the same amount of money by age 77-80 (the calculation varies slightly at different amounts). If you live longer, you'll of course do better financially by having retired later, but not necessarily be better off overall.

60% of women and 50% of men start collecting SS at age 62, 75% by their full retirement age, and fewer than 10% wait till age 70 to collect the maximum monthly benefit.

An article on the mathematics of collecting SS at different ages:

The biggest emergency before retirement is usually losing your job, one worry you won't have in retirement ;-) The biggest emergencies in retirement tend to be health-related: needing a nursing home/assisted living/home care aide/cleaning & cooking help when you're unable to care for yourself either temporarily or permanently, uncovered expenses like hearing aids and major dental work, covering insurance deductibles (probably doesn't apply to someone who is house-free and of the reasons a lot of seniors prefer to rent!), legal and other professional help. With family in the area, hopefully some of them are younger and in a position to pitch in from time to time. And neighbors are often kind to oldsters. My 30something son lives in a condo complex that is mostly a mix of older women and younger men. The women provide security in being home most of the time and accept packages while the men are at work. The men do handyman things, heavy lifting, and run occasional errands for the ladies.

The big question( which I won't be able to answer until I retire) is what will Medicare cover and what will my copays be?

I hope some of those already on Medicare can chime in here. My mother has a Medicare supplemental policy (through AARP) that seems to pay for most of what Medicare doesn't cover, but her medical needs are fewer than average. Note that things like health insurance (even supplemental) typicality cost more in the Bay Area than South Carolina--having moved from one to the other 10 years ago, I know a little about it.

If I stay in my apartment that would be a sound financial decision because my rent is one of the cheapest in the county. BUT, I would like to get a dog when I retire which means I would have to move to a place that allows pets (which means I'll mostly likely be paying more for rent, unless I go back to getting a roommate). And there would be the added expense of taking care of a pet. Something to thing about.

Is it possible that a long-term reliable renter like yourself could get special dispensation from the landlord if you acquire a small, quiet dog and are home all day to take care of it? Try offering additional security deposit and proof of umbrella/liability insurance to cover possible damage to people and property. I'd be reluctant to give up inexpensive digs where I was happy. Of course, 10 years from now your situation could be quite different. BTW, don't underestimate the expense. I've heard a good rule of thumb over time is $100/month per dog and $50/month per cat, which takes into account occasional expensive vet care and professional grooming (if you do all your own grooming and will treat expensive conditions with charity help or euthanasia, the cost would be lower). On the other hand, pets usually make their owners very happy--as long as they can afford it.

I was born and raised in the SF Bay Area and I love it here. And my family is here. If I were to move out of the area I really like Seattle (but that isn't a cheaper area either). I wilt in humidity and my body doesn't do well in extreme heat so I'm staying on the West Coast.

I lived in the Bay Are for 8 years and understand your feelings. Worst case, you could move to a smaller, somewhat less expensive city with a transit connection. For example, I think there are buses from Santa Cruz or there used to be. Portland has good public transit. Not to mention the fine hippie town of Eugene OR (can't wait to visit the Northwest myself--never been there). I'm not up on Amtrak and bus connections on the West Coast.
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