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10 Essential Considerations for Deciding Where to Retire

One of the greatest benefits that retirement provides is the opportunity to choose where you want to live. You no longer need to be concerned about living close to where you work. Instead, you can choose to live in a place that offers the climate and surroundings that will enable you to enjoy your retirement to its fullest.

Many of the criteria you will use to select your ideal retirement location are obvious, such as the cost of living, taxes, safety and climate. However, there are many other important criteria to consider that might be less apparent.

Here are ten important qualities you should evaluate when you are looking at potential retirement destinations.

Quality of health care, assisted living and nursing facilities.

When you begin your retirement, you will probably be healthy and active.

But in your later years, the availability of good doctors, one or more quality hospitals, and decent, affordable assisted living facilities and nursing homes will become crucial. As you age, it will be more difficult to relocate to another area to find better health care options. It makes sense to investigate the services that are available in the area you are considering.

While a lot may change in the future, the availability of good medical services today is a good indicator of what should be available in the future.

Cost of health insurance.

If you retire before you become eligible for Medicare at age 65 or if you will not have employer-provided health insurance, then you will need to purchase your health insurance on the open market until you reach 65.

The cost of health insurance varies widely from state to state. The number of choices you have for insurance plans and carriers varies widely too, especially if you qualify for an ACA subsidy and will be buying your health insurance on your state’s health care exchange.

Even though the health care landscape will continue to change as the United States wrestles with health care reform, you should research the costs and levels of coverage provided by the insurance plans that are available in your new location.

If you are planning to move to another country, you will need to learn how you can participate in that country’s health care system as an expat and what it will cost.

Quality and availability of senior services.

As with doctors, hospitals and retirement facilities, you may not need to avail yourself of senior services until later in your retirement. But it’s good to know whether services such as senior activity centers, clubs, organizations, home care providers and transportation for people with mobility challenges are available in the community you are considering.

Things you value in your everyday life.

If you are accustomed to shopping in particular stores, you may miss those places if they are not available in your new location. For example, if you are used to having a Costco or a Trader Joe’s nearby, ask yourself if you could be happy in an area where these stores aren’t present.

The same applies to things like art house movie theaters, farmers’ markets, your favorite type of restaurant, a church of your denomination, and so on.

Sometimes the smallest, most mundane things make a big difference.

Proximity to a major airport.

If you plan to travel during retirement, you’ll probably appreciate living within a reasonable drive from an airport that offers regular flights to many destinations.

Having to drive several hours in addition to the time spent on an airplane will make your travel more tedious, and it will be more costly to take a cab or shuttle and more difficult to have friends take you to the airport.

Similarly, if you expect to entertain visiting friends and family members, living closer to an airport will make transportation easier for them.

Signs of future prosperity or decline.

The town or neighborhood you are considering might look good now, but try to envision how it will hold up over time.

A lot may change over the years, but there are several signs you can look for. If the local economy is strong and the major employers are in industries with a promising future, such as technology and medical research, that bodes well for a city’s future. On the other hand, a heavy concentration of aging manufacturing plants is less promising.

State capitals and university towns will probably remain stable over time.

You can research population growth and employment rate trends online, and you can observe whether there is a lot of new building and revitalization of existing neighborhoods or if homes are falling into disrepair and shopping centers have a plethora of vacant stores.

Amenities to support your desired lifestyle.

Think about the activities you plan to participate in as you enjoy your retirement, then investigate whether the area you are considering offers the amenities that will support your interests.

For example, if you are an artist, see if there are art supply stores, galleries, and places that offer art classes. If you plan to play a musical instrument, find out if there are bands or orchestras you can join and opportunities to perform. If you enjoy fine dining or international cuisine, look at what the local restaurant scene offers.

The same applies for adult education classes, museums, theaters, live music, hiking trails, golf courses and more.

Opportunities for socialization.

An engaging social life is one of the most important components of a happy retirement.

If you prefer to socialize with other retirees, you may want to move to an active adult community or live in a city that has a larger senior population.

If you prefer to socialize with people of various ages who have similar interests to yours, you can look into Meetup groups and read local publications to get a feel for what social opportunities are available.

The ability to age in place.

It’s always a good idea to rent in a new locale before you buy. That will allow you to determine whether you are going to enjoy the area and give you time to discover more about the local housing market.

When the time comes to buy a new home, choose one that will continue to serve you well as you get older. A one-story home is a wise choice, and you should be mindful of whether the home will still be navigable if you need to use a walker or wheelchair someday. You should consider how large a home you are willing to maintain and the amount of yard maintenance you are willing to do, both now and in the future.

The community’s fees and regulations.

If you are planning to buy a condominium, a home in an active adult community or a home in a neighborhood with a homeowners association, it’s essential to learn as much as you can about the community’s rules and the fees involved with living there. Try to assess whether the managing organization operates effectively and is in good financial health.

If you are moving into a land-lease community in which you own a manufactured home or mobile home but you lease the ground it sits on, there a chance that the property could be sold in the future if there is a lot of new development in the area and land prices are rising.

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Moving to a new place after you retire is an exciting, possibility-filled event. It can be the beginning of a rewarding new chapter of your life. It’s also a decision that requires extensive research and a clear vision of what you want your retirement to be like so that you can be sure you are making the best choice.

Please feel welcome to comment below.

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Reprinted from my blog on U.S. News - On Retirement.
© 2017 Dave Hughes. All rights reserved.

Photo credits:
Maps and coffee cup: StockSnap.
Nurse pushing woman in wheelchair: sasint.
Grocery store: Tariq786.
Airport terminal: Michael Gaida.
Abandoned mall:  Kamil Dzledzina. Some rights reserved.
Band: 4997826.
Cocktails: bridgesward.
Outdoor tables and palm trees: Scott Jacob. Some rights reserved.

7 thoughts on “10 Essential Considerations for Deciding Where to Retire

  1. John R.

    Hi, Dave. It appears that you forgot to include a nearby public transit option when seeking where to live for those of us who don't drive. Also, what about nearby LGBT-friendly Senior Centers? Researching the area's crime statistics and other considerations, such as affordable housing, for seniors on a fixed income.
    I'm overwhelmed in finding a place to move to due to my low income. Ideally, it would be in a manufactured home rental, but resources for such housing are so scant.
    Thank you

    Reply
    1. Dave Hughes

      Hi John,

      These are all good points, especially about crime statistics. Communitycrimemap.com is an excellent resource for that, so is city-data.com.

      Reply
  2. William DeyErmand

    Excellent article Dave! These are 10 things a person should have on a list when visiting perspective retirement locations. The best cities for retirement offer appealing amenities -- good quality of life, ample health care options and plenty of things to do -- enabling one to retire in place on a fixed-income budget. Finding a location with the amenities you have been accustomed to during your working years will make a place feel more like home. Also, High Technology regions are good choices due to the job growths.

    Reply
    1. Dave Hughes

      Thanks, William!

      It seems strange to consider job growth when you're looking for a place to retire, but a good job market keeps the area vibrant and keeps property values up.

      Reply

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