Retire to your Shangri La

In our household, we have been paying our mortgage for over 15 years and are in pretty good shape as far as our ability to handle the remaining balance. We did compare mortgage refinance companies using Credible at one point but that was mainly out of curiosity. We recently did some serious renovations, upgrading, and modifying, basically replacing EVERYTHING but the kitchen sink – actually a new kitchen sink too! The neighborhood is quiet and populated by young families as the local schools are known widely for their excellence. And both Starbucks and Peets are a mere 15 minute walk with no hills in between. There are definitely worse places to retire to.

So why would we even contemplate moving elsewhere upon retirement? What is it that we could possibly be looking for in a new home base? What variables should we consider before making a move? And where can we find good information on where we can happily retire to?

Should you move?

Before contemplating a move to your retirement Shangri La, consider one important trade off – you can move to your new retirement house and neighborhood and a fresh start or you can stay where you are and instead spend money on traveling to the myriad of worldwide Shangri Las out there. And you will be able to afford to travel in retirement. Keep your current hopefully-almost-paid-off house as your home base, comfortable and well known, and break out the atlas. Big plus is the variety you will experience in your journeys, each time returning to your safe nest at the end of the trip. The chance you take in wandering is you are never 100% sure what you are getting until you walk in the door. But hey, we all love a little excitement.

If you do decide to venture out and permanently relocate for your retirement, you will need to decide what things are most important to you. And then to realize there will be trade-offs in your wish list. The “perfect retirement place”, with every little thing your heart desires, does not likely exist (if you should find it, please share). So it may take a little compromise in the final analysis.

An effective way to help visualize variables influencing your decision is the old Ben Franklin analysis. Make two columns. Label the first column “plus” and the second “minus”. As you research and review your key variables (see a partial list below), place them in the appropriate column. Continue your information gathering, building out the comparison. At any given moment, you can quickly compare to help point you in the best direction.

For Your Consideration

Here is a list of five variables to assist you in your relocation research:

(1)  Cost of housing – pretty obvious one here but you want to minimize your ongoing mortgage payment once retired – zero would be best. One option is to sell your current house and use the proceeds to buy your retirement home outright. Prices vary widely across the US so depending on your other most important variables, you may actually be able to upgrade while paying less for the new house. Here is a helpful link that shows some average home prices across the US plus things like median income, population, and reviews by others:

(2)  Proximity to what you need most – this is based on individual preferences and will play a significant role in your ultimate decision. For example, for us, a big priority is to be within walking distance of the Mayberry-RFD-like downtown area – say 3-5 blocks – without any significant hills along our path. We hope to be just like any other local – where everybody knows our name – with a regular coffee shop, nice bakery that makes fresh croissants each morning, some variety when it comes to dinner options, and of course a warm, friendly watering hole with a good selection of California red wines!

So how important is it to be near – and how do you define near (4 blocks; ½ mile; 50 miles) – things like the beach, mountains, fishing, downtown, shopping mall, the symphony, coffee shop, plays, local restaurants. Will you be walking, biking, or driving?

(3)  Weather – do you need sun or is a little fog okay? How are you with hot versus cold? Or better very hot versus very cold? Will cloudy skies rain on your parade or can you deal with a little precipitation? The more desirable the weather, the higher your (1) will be.

(4)  Neighborhood – how important is the neighborhood culture? For example, average age of the population, mix of professional versus blue collar, schools, social activity. You definitely want to spend some time driving and walking the prospective area to get a first-hand feel for the culture – once retired, you want to feel comfortable and safe in your new home.

My VP Sales awhile back was adamant that he would only retire somewhere near a big university where there was “always something going on” – he chose Santa Barbara and has not regretted it one moment.

(5)  Population/density of people – can you deal with rush hour traffic when you retire or do you prefer a slower pace? Do crowds and lines make you tense or are you by nature patient?

Odds and Ends – for those personal touches, those final details to make your retirement destination just so. Here are a few examples that tickle our fancy and are on our most important list:  must have one awesome burrito place; tip top martini joint; good, spicy Thai restaurant; locale for that perfect cup of morning java (Starbucks/Peets are “okay”, but a neighborhood brewery would be ideal); along that note, local brewery with just-right-suds; corner grocery store with a bit of everything; bakery for that fresh morning or afternoon pastry; and a wine shop with a nice diversity to satisfy our love of good vino.

Ultimately the where to retire to decision is a combination of research and fact gathering along with gut feeling, wishful dreaming and a dash of risk. You want to find inspiration in your retirement life. Do your homework and have fun. The world is full of exciting places to live and I believe that there is someplace out there just right for each of us.

Don’t forget to pick up a free copy of my Navigating the Retirement Jungle, available upon request by mailing to


2 thoughts on “Retire to your Shangri La

  1. Thanks for an excellent list of “five variables” to consider regarding relocation in retirement. About your two columns (plus and minus), I’d like to make a suggestion – I’d suggest that the retiree make three lists – “Must haves,” “Nice to haves,” and “Definitely don’t wants.” The “Must haves” are those characteristics of an ideal retirement place which are most important, those which the retiree is unwilling to compromise. The “Nice to haves,” are the factors which the retiree would prefer to have, but about which he or she would make some compromise. The “Definitely don’t wants,” are characteristics of a community which, for the individual retiree, are deal breakers. That is, they absolutely wouldn’t consider moving to a community which has those specific characteristics.

    And just one more suggestion, if I may – I’d suggest that the person newly retired not be in a hurry to move. The decision to stay put for a year or so gives the retiree the opportunity to test out retirement without introducing another variable. Seems to me a good idea to make just one major change at a time. The retiree can first see how it feels to be retired. Then figure out what he or she likes and doesn’t like about their current location related to retired life. At the end of a year (more or less), the retiree will then be able to make a more informed decision regarding relocation.

    • Thanks for the comment Bill – I like your three column suggestion. And I agree with taking time before making the final decision to move. Better to think about it and do your research since it is a big decision. I am sure you and your wife put some serious time into the decision for one way tickets to Peru! But it sure sounds like it was a decision well made.
      Dave Bernard

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