Deciding Where to Retire

House with incredible view

2013-10-05 Ansel Adams

It’s fun to think about where we would like to retire.  This sort of “possibility thinking” is especially likely to happen when we’re on vacation, and we’re enthralled with a new place that we’re discovering and enjoying.

I got swept up in this big-time in February, when my husband and I visited New Zealand and Australia.  On our recent cruise from Amsterdam to Barcelona, several cities and towns appealed to us as well (Lisbon, Portugal and Seville, Spain in particular).

Before you get too swept away by a new place you’ve discovered or too committed to moving to a new destination for retirement, there are some more practical, down-to-earth things to consider.

Recently, I polled the readers of this blog to determine how many people are giving at least some consideration to moving someplace else when they retire, and how important various criteria are when selecting a retirement destination.

The sample size was admittedly small.  I’ll reopen the poll at some point in the future when the blog has attracted a bigger following to see if the results shift.  But the results seem logical, although there were a few surprises.

The biggest surprise is that 80% of the respondents were considering moving. 

Of the remaining 20%, half said they would stay put, and the other half hadn’t even considered the question.

Also surprising is that 30% would seriously consider retiring to an LGBT retirement community, and an additional 50% would consider it if it was located in an area they would want to live in anyway.  Of the remaining responses, 10% were not aware that such places existed and 10% were not LGBT.

That said, here is the ranking of most important criteria, according to the survey:

  1. Quality of, and proximity to, health care
  2. Safety
  3. Cost of living
  4. Climate/weather
  5. Same-sex marriage recognized, or similar recognition (civil union, domestic partnership)
  6. Cultural amenities
  7. Gay/lesbian or LGBT-friendly health services
  8. Recreational amenities
  9. Political climate
  10. Proximity to loved ones
  11. Gay/lesbian community (business, organizations, churches, etc. that serve primarily LGBT people)

The only criterion that failed to gather much interest was appreciating property values.

Readers suggested two more criteria in the comments:  public transportation and proximity to a major airport.   These are excellent suggestions, and I’ll include them when I re-open the poll.

The two biggest surprises in this ranking, for me, are that safety is so high, and gay/lesbian community is so low.

Several respondents indicated that they were planning to split their time between two places.  These were generally a warmer and a cooler locale, which is not at all uncommon for retirees.

Two people indicated they would like a home in the U.S. and one in Europe.  This is an interesting idea, but my first thought is that this is going to require a significantly larger level of savings – not only to maintain two households, but also to afford the airfare back and forth, perhaps multiple times a year.

But that’s one of the main reasons it’s important to think about where you want to live when you retire a long time before you actually retire;  it gives you a clearer picture of what your savings target should be.

As you consider the list above, naturally your priorities will probably vary.  It’s a useful exercise to sit down (with your spouse, if you have one) and come up with your own list.

As I profile more “Fabulous Places to Retire” in future blog posts, I will apply these criteria to each place I spotlight.

© 2013 Dave Hughes.  All rights reserved.

Photo Credit:  Tracy Lee Carroll

4 thoughts on “Deciding Where to Retire

  1. David Henson

    Regarding the 30% who would consider retirement to a LGBT retirement community, have you researched the locations of these? When I moved here, there was a place in NW metro called "Marigold Creek" ( but I am not sure it got off the ground. The one working link on that page is a great resorce:

    1. Dave Hughes

      Hi David,

      I have done some research on LGBT retirement communities. There are a few that are operating in the U.S., ranging from exclusive single-family home developments to nursing homes. I want to gather a little more information about them (and ensure that they are still solvent) before I report on them, but that is on the horizon.

      There were several communities in various planning stages that fell through during the real estate bust circa 2009, and unfortunately Marigold Creek was one of them.

      Thanks for the links to the Gay Real Estate and the Gayborhoods web sites!

  2. Aidan

    Interesting results, Dave. It might also be interesting to see how these priorities depend on just how close a person is to retirement. Most of the top considerations seem very practical, by people who've seriously thought about the decision. And regarding the high desire of people to move when they retire, I wonder how much of this is people wanting to move back to somewhere they used to live and really enjoyed (as in our case), or to somewhere they've vacationed frequently, or to somewhere they've only visited once or not at all?

    1. Dave Hughes

      Hi Aidan,

      All good questions. When I first started out with this project, I created a pretty thorough survey that would have asked many of these questions and allowed me to correlate the results. I'll probably put that out there when I get a larger body of potential respondents.

      Like you, I was impressed that the people who responded to this one had already given the matter some serious thought.

      Thanks for your comment!


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