How to Decide Where to Retire

From my US News & World blog

One of the most important retirement decisions we will make is deciding where to live. We must decide whether we want to retire in place or relocate to a more exotic locale. Some people downsize, transition from a house to a condo, or move to a retirement community upon retirement, while others just make some changes to their existing homestead.

[See The 10 Best Places to Retire in 2012.]

I have spent a considerable amount of time contemplating myideal retirement location and have decided it would look something like this:

  • Near the beach and rolling waves—three to five blocks ideally, a few more if absolutely necessary
  • Walking distance to the local downtown where we have our favorite coffee bar, breakfast restaurant, bookstore, dinner establishment, and wine bar
  • Temperate weather and no snow
  • A diverse age group with young and old making up the local population
  • A small-town feel, but with modern conveniences
  • A good public transportation system
  • Access to quality hospitals and health services

[See 11 Retirement Benefit Changes Coming in 2012.]

Important questions to ask. If you have not begun your investigation, here are a few preliminary considerations:

1. How important is the outdoors and nature? If you cannot live in it, how close do you need to be to it?

2. Do you prefer a big city with lots of cultural experiences and nightlife or a small-town feel?

3. What kind of weather is desired or acceptable?

4. How important is having friendly neighbors? Here you may want to spend some time walking through the prospective area, getting a feel for the people and families, and talking with local vendors to get their first hand view on things.

5. Can you comfortably afford the cost of living? In retirement our funds are limited, so be brutally honest in this analysis.

Relocate or renovate? Many retirees are happy with their existing home, established network of friends, and familiarity of surroundings. For these people, the option of sprucing up their current dwelling may be more attractive than moving to a new place. Here are a few ideas for getting the most for your renovating dollars.

  • Improvements that aid accessibility are useful as we age. Try to choose fewer and shallow steps, lower kitchen and bathroom counters, and handles on doors rather than doorknobs. Easy access bath tubs and showers are nice upgrades.
  • Better lighting throughout the house.
  • Improved insulation to keep warm in winter and cool in summer.
  • Drip irrigation is efficient and easy to care for.

[See The 10 Sunniest Places to Retire.]

As you plan for retirement, consider the many variables that can contribute to living a fulfilling life as a senior citizen. Carefully plan for contingencies such as failing health as well as identifying fun things you will do to keep active. You may need to evaluate several possible retirement locations.

Dave Bernard is the author of Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life?, which offers guidelines to discover your personal passion and live a life of purpose. Not yet retired, Dave has begun his due diligence to plan for a fulfilling retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement–Only the Beginning.

4 thoughts on “How to Decide Where to Retire

  1. I love your list, but I have to ask if you’ve found your ideal retirement location? Cost of living was important to us, so nix the the beach community. My husband wanted a community center with pool and spa, which usuall means the burbs, so nix public transportation. We have a great mix of generations-retirement draw, but with 3 colleges, lots of younger people. We do have decent health care. In the end, I agree it’s important people identify their ‘must-haves’ and where they’re willing to comprimise. I wanted to be within 1 hour of major airport. We’re about 2 hours away. That was doable. Most people won’t move, but it’s nice to fantasize.

  2. Hi Cathy – we thought we had the perfect location in Pacific Grove, CA – it fit most of our requirements, a bit expensive but not nearly on par with Bay Area options, perhaps a bit cooler than my wife would like it but otherwise pretty close. However we are continuing the search as there just may be that perfect location somewhere out there. And the search is half the fun! :)

  3. For us in our “relocation” (from house to condo?), we feel that it’s top priority to stay close (enough) to our network of friends and family. Next in priority is to be close enough to nature to enjoy walks and other outdoor activities. And, of course, finding a small, cozy, and affordable place in which to downsize.

  4. You got it Steve – and it is amazing how little we really “need” in retirement as far as a place to live. Bigger is not better and location is key – especially near our network of friends and family. Enjoy!

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