What makes for a happy retirement story? A healthy dose of due diligence and a solid plan! This is particularly true for those of us who are considering relocating in retirement. There are many reasons to move: being closer to family, enjoying better weather and lower taxes are just some examples. If you are thinking about making a move in retirement, here are some things you should keep in mind.
Research, research, research.
A move is a big decision. When you are working with a fixed income stream in retirement, it is best to not have to move your home more times than necessary. Be sure that you dedicate time and effort to researching the candidates for your new home. Websites like Neighborhood Scout can be a good starting point for looking up crime statistics to determine the safety of the area.
Be sure to consider the amenities and services that are (or will become) important to you, including social outlets, entertainment and access to healthcare. Online resources like the AARP Livability Index can help you get started. On that note, if you are planning to supplement your income in retirement by working, look into your would-be-local employment options.
Even if you are active and independent today, consider the possibility that you may have to stop driving at some point in the future. Would you be able to access the local supermarket and pharmacy? Does the area have reliable public transportation or other transport options for seniors?
Figure out the real cost of living.
It is easy to focus on the favorable aspects of the move (zero income tax!) but be sure to look into the cost of living in depth. Some zero income tax states can have higher property or sales taxes, so check your math carefully. How much does produce cost? What about entertainment and gasoline? Hawaii might be a perfect fit for you when it comes to the ocean views and the balmy 70-degree weather, but you should also be prepared to spend more on groceries!
Try before you buy!
We have all daydreamed about how nice it would be to live in a place where we vacation. Unfortunately, a 10 day vacation is a poor substitute for real life. Think about all the small annoyances that don’t ever arise on vacation. Stretches of bad weather, traffic and quality of tap water just aren’t a factor! Consider renting in the location of your choice for a few months to make sure that the climate, cost of living, services and amenities are truly a good fit. Get used to getting around, live like a local and visit outside the perfect vacation season to get the real deal.
Will this be your forever home?
The question of whether you want to make a single move and homestead there for the rest of your life is an important one. It will determine the features of the most “practical” home for you. For example, if you are not planning to move again, you may choose a home with fewer steps, doorways wide enough to accommodate a walker, and a sit-down shower. This decision may also affect the timing of your relocation. If you are planning on making this your “forever home” with your spouse, you may opt to move sooner rather than later to allow you both time to establish connections in the new community.
Make sure everyone is on board.
Couples that are considering moving in retirement must make sure they are on the same page. I am not just talking about the choice of location but also about living arrangements. Would you like to live in a tiny home? A mid-sized house with enough rooms for grandchildren and friends to visit? A 55+ community that will take care of landscaping and offer social events? There is no one “right” way to live in retirement, so take your time so that you make the choice that’s a good fit for both of you.
If you are moving to be closer to your children, make sure that you have examined all possibilities. Is there a chance that your children will have to relocate to another city for a job? How comfortable would you be if you had to re-establish your social support network without family nearby? Do your children’s expectations on weekend visits and babysitting duties match your idea of a perfect retirement?
Relocating in retirement? Do your due diligence!
A move is a stressful life event at any age, and anything you can do to ensure a smooth transition is a good investment. An optimistic and adventurous spirit is essential for relocating in retirement, but be sure that you have done your homework.