If you are wondering about the right place to retire, you are not alone. A recent study from Merrill Lynch found that 37 percent of retirees have moved their homes, and another 27 percent anticipate making the move in the future. Whether you stay or go, your choice of retirement location will have profound impact on your life. What should you consider before making the big decision?
Do your research
Your due diligence should go well beyond daydreaming of hours to be spent enjoying better weather, more time with family, and lower taxes. A home move can be expensive and time-consuming. While the effort and the expense may be well-worth it, do the math first.
When considering the financial aspects of the move, look at the differential costs. In other words, consider only the costs that would be different between the two locations. Let’s say you are thinking about staying in your home in Texas or moving to Colorado. The expense of shipping your belongings qualifies as a differential cost. On the other hand, the cost of your monthly prescriptions doesn’t qualify, as you would have to pay for them no matter where you live. This approach can help you focus on the expenses that matter most.
Do a test-drive
Vacationing in your dream destination isn’t the same as living there full-time. If you are in love with a location, consider doing a “test move” and living there for three to six months. Ideally, you should time your extended stay with the least favorable time of the year (such as a rainy season in a place that’s otherwise dry and sunny). Shop at the local supermarkets, learn the driving routes, and make local friends. The experience will give you fantastic insight into whether a location would be a good fit for you in the long run.
If you are wondering what to do with your current home during that time, think about subletting it. Websites like Airbnb can help you find someone to take over your current home, as well as help you find a place to test-drive your possible retirement location.
Consider your social network
Gorgeous weather is certainly nice, but it’s actually your social network that can shape longevity and quality of life in retirement. According to the multi-year Blue Zones study from the National Geographic, community is a source of well-being, joy, and meaning as we age. Social engagement, connection over common interests or a shared faith, and a friendly face to exchange hellos with on a daily walk can all make a difference. Be honest about your willingness to meet new people and think carefully before you choose a remote location with 15 miles between neighbors.
Get family buy-in
Where you choose to retire is your decision to make. However, getting family buy-in is a smart step. If you are moving to be closer to your kids, get clarity on what that means for you and for your family. Does your son envision a get-together dinner once a month while you are thinking about Sunday church visits, family lunches, and mid-week outings with your grandkids? Does your daughter look forward to you taking over daily babysitting duties, while you cannot wait for the freedom to explore your new neighborhood? It’s critical to talk about everyone’s expectations because a mismatch can create stress and friction.
Even if family location isn’t a factor for your move in retirement, family will likely be affected by your choice. Hear their concerns and walk them through your reasoning, as this conversation can bring you closer together.
Depending on your age, health, and plans, later-life practicality may come into your location decision. Think about your needs in the near future and 10 to 20 years down the line. Are there local services that would support you if you were temporarily unable to drive? What elder care services are available in your new community? How much home can you comfortably take care of? Technology may make elder living easier in the future (driverless cars, cleaning robots, and smart refrigerators that order milk via the Internet before you run out are just some examples), but the degree to which your home and community of choice are retirement-friendly will still make a difference.
Choosing where to live in retirement
As you weigh the pros and cons of your options, remember that you are making a decision based on what you know today. No amount of careful research can give you a crystal ball! Take your time, talk to family and friends, think about your future needs – but have the courage to choose what’s best for you. Don’t let uncertainty and fear of change hold you back from enjoying life in retirement!