"Bob Levey speaking."

"Good afternoon, young man."

"Sorry, sir, you must have the wrong number."

"Now, Bob, please, don't start on the aching bones business. You are still well short of retirement, I'm sure."

"I could never retire, because I could never repay all the money I owe if I did. But that doesn't mean my knees and back need to feel the way they do."

"Have you ever thought about what retirement would be like, Bob? I ask because I'm one of your regular readers over here in Alexandria, and I've been retired for almost 15 years now."

"Honest and truly, sir, I can't imagine it. I've been shoveling words for so many years that I can't picture shovellessness. I could never plant tulip bulbs or play golf. I could never sort old family photos and be content. Nor could I ever move away from Washington."

"I did it, and I've never made a worse decision. I went to South Carolina. My wife and I bought a house near the beach. I was so bored that I couldn't stand it. We were back here a year later."

"I've often thought that this will be the next great growth story here. Washington, D.C., as a haven for retirees. It certainly makes sense."

"How so?"

"First of all, culturally. We get hung up so often on all our traffic problems and crime problems that we forget to notice one key piece of truth: There are more free museums in Washington than anywhere else. I don't know about you, sir, but I could spend a week in the Smithsonian -- and I plan to do it some year."

"You know, that was one major reason we came back from South Carolina. There was no music, no art."

"I also have a hunch that Donald and Daisy Retiree won't be quite so quick to bail out of the house where they raised Huey, Dewey and Louie."

"Why is that?"

"First of all, because of the space. You often hear retirees say they don't want to have to take care of a house when they get older. But if you move from a three-bedroom rambler to a two-bedroom condo with only one bathroom, won't you feel a little claustrophobic? I'm willing to worry about gutters and paint as long as I have the feeling of mobility and freedom."

"I really agree with that, Bob. Our place in South Carolina felt small, even though it wasn't much smaller than the one we sold up here."

"Speaking of money, let me point out one other reason why retirees may want to stick around D.C. If your ancestral mansion is paid for, and you stay in it, you can use it as a bank."

"You mean with home equity loans?"

"Exactly. Home equity loans are terrific. The rates are far better than they'd be if you just walked into a bank and asked for a loan. And you get a tax advantage you can't concoct any other way. If you lived in some teeny little apartment, you'd have a tough time coming up with the money all of a sudden if a daughter decides to get married or a son needs a few thousand to start a business."

"I wish I had thought of that before we left to go to South Carolina. We sold our old house and put about two-thirds of the money into the place in South Carolina. When we decided to come back, the market was soft, so we lost money when we sold. We couldn't afford the kind of place we really wanted when we came back to Alexandria."

"And I'll bet you weren't delighted with having to pay closing costs on two houses within a year?"

"Unbelievable how much we spent on that."

"No, sir, very believable. Anyway, let me mention one other reason why Washington may keep more and more retirees: children and grandchildren."

"How do you mean?"

"This is a tremendous place to have a career and raise a family. More and more thirty-somethings and forty-somethings are realizing that. So they're settling here and staying here. Why would grandparents want to move 1,500 miles away just because the sun shines a little more often than it does here? So they can see their families once a year? Wouldn't they rather see their families twice a week?"

"That was a major reason we came back. We missed our grandchildren, and we couldn't stand to be around people our own age all the time. My wife and I are both in our late sixties, and there are only two things people our age talk about: the stock market and the weather. There's so much more."

"There's also sharing responsibilities. If your children get stuck for a babysitter, for example, wouldn't it be great if they could call Grandma and Grandpa? Not only would the price be right, but there'd be a chance for the generations to build a bond that doesn't depend on a birthday or a holiday. If Grandma takes a child to the doctor, they get a chance to talk in a natural way that would be hard to duplicate if Grandma visits once a year."

"So true, Bob. The best times I have with our grandchildren are when I drive them to soccer games and church."

"So you think you're sticking around?"


"Even when it snows?"

"Well, I can always get on a plane and go somewhere for a while."

"Yes, you can. Think of me when you do. I'm sure my knees and back will still ache. But they'd ache if I were playing golf ten times a week in the Bahamas, too."