Retirement is a major life change. For many people it means not only quitting a job they may have been doing (and loved) for years, but also facing many other large decisions as well. Downsizing living arrangements is one big decision that many retirees make, and sometimes they might even decide to move to locations that are warmer or have an overall lower cost of living.
But what makes a great vacation destination may not always be the best place to live permanently. You need to keep many factors in mind before putting that for sale sign on your home and packing your bags.
Scope out possible locations
You want to start this process well in advance of your retirement. Typically one to two years is enough time to make a reasonable decision. During this time you have a lot of work to do. You should start by making a list of destinations where you think you might want to live during your retirement.
Once you have a few places identified, try to spend two to three weeks in each spot, during what is considered to be the “best and worst times of the year”. That means spending some time during the summer down south in the summer while spending time up north in the winter. This will give you an idea of how you like the area at all times of the year.
Know your priorities
Is a strong religious community important to you? Do you thrive in active senior communities? Know your priorities so that you can decide where you want to live. Make a list of the “must-haves” that a retirement location needs for you versus a “would be nice” list. This can help you choose one area over another if you’re having a tough time deciding.
Get to know what daily life is like
Vacation life and daily life are two different things. When you’re visiting possible retirement spots, walk around different areas, visit local senior centers and talk to as many people as possible. This can give insight as to how comfortable you might feel living there.
Check out local events to see if there would be enough activities of interest if you were to move there. Talk with local real estate agents about the cost of living to see if a move is feasible money wise. Take a look at sales tax, property tax, and any other taxes as you decide. Also, keep track of living expenses like grocery and gas to see if everything is in your budget.
Make sure there is access to good healthcare
Although you may be in good health when you move, you don’t know what the future holds. For that reason, you should investigate the quality and availability of healthcare. You won’t want to travel a long distance just to find a good doctor. If you currently see specialists, check to see how good the ones in your prospective retirement location are and how close they are. Remember, you may not always be independent and may need to rely on others for transportation or need access to local public transportation.
Consider proximity to family/friends & airport distance
If you dream of living your retirement in a quiet, rural area, that’s great. But, how far are you going to be from family and how far is the airport if you plan to travel? Knowing the average cost of air travel to the closest airport is also a good idea if you plan to travel a lot.
Take your time
While you may be excited to start this new chapter in your life, don’t rush into anything. If you don’t want to move a lot in retirement (and honestly most people don’t) take some time to ensure you are making a well thought out choice, not one on impulse. Put together all of the pieces of the puzzle; location, cost, proximity, health care, and decide what areas you can compromise on and which ones are non-negotiable.
Once you choose where you’re going to retire, enjoy your time! You certainly earned it!