It seems that every few weeks, articles and books pop up that rate the best places to retire. These publications often focus on the “vacation” part of retirement, touting exotic locations, or they focus on items they can quantify such as taxes and the cost of living.
The key word that’s missing in these publications is “your.” While these articles and books can provide you with some useful information and ideas, they’re missing crucial information: what you want for your retirement.
Many people in middle age built their life around working and raising a family. But this situation often changes as you transition either into your second middle age (that period of freedom and vitality after your primary career winds down and after the kids move out) or into retirement.
If you haven’t done so already, now’s the time to seriously consider how your life and your resources could change after you retire. Once you do, you may need to rethink your living situation so that it’s a better fit for your needs and your lifestyle.
Here’s another common situation: Many older Americans have modest retirement savings that might not be enough to fund the life they truly want in retirement. As a result, when choosing where to live, you’ll want to consider both sides of the magic formula for retirement income security (I > E) so you can make the most of the funds you have.
If you decide that moving to a new locale might be a good choice for you, you’ll want to carefully consider all of the following factors so you make the best choice about where to live:
- General geographic location
- Specific house and community
- Best use of home equity
Of course, there’s probably no one best choice for anyone when it comes to deciding where to live. So you might want to come up with a list of several locations that might be a good fit for you, then determine which of them will best reflect your priorities, your circumstances, and your needs.
To help you make the best decision for you, the following two checklists can help you systematically explore your options for finding the best place to live in retirement.
Goals for the general location you want
Here’s a checklist of possible goals that might be important to you when choosing the general location that best meets your needs:.
- You want to be near family.
- You want to be close to friends.
- You need to live close to dependent parents or grandchildren to provide care to them.
- You need to be close to work or volunteer opportunities.
- You have specific activities or interests in your general location.
- You need to reduce housing expenses by moving to a less-expensive area with lower real estate costs.
- You want to reduce state and local taxes.
- You have specific health care needs that dictate location.
- You want better weather.
- You want to take advantage of regional public transportation (such as major subway systems).
- Other reasons? List them here.
Goals for the specific house and community you want
The following checklist is a list of the possible goals that might be important to you when choosing the specific house and community that best meets your needs:
- You want a safe, walkable, or bike-friendly neighborhood within a short distance of stores, health care providers, and social activities.
- You want to be close to friends and family for social engagement and support.
- You want to be close to your favorite activities.
- You have specific needs that are best served by local health providers, businesses, or public agencies.
- You prefer to be close to parks, walking paths, and open spaces.
- You want to live in a diverse community.
- You want to take advantage of local public transportation, such as trams and buses.
- You want a house that meets your basic living and social needs, such as having a home office or room for guests.
- You want to reduce your housing expenses, such as utilities, maintenance, and taxes.
- You want maintenance obligations and yard work that are manageable.
- You need a house with no stairs.
- You need a house to accommodate possible physical limitations — for example, one that allows wheelchair access.
- You want to age in place into your frail years.
- Other reasons? List them here.
If you’re the type who systematically explores your options, print out this post and rate the priority for each item in these two checklists on a scale of one to three, with one being the highest priority. When you’re done completing your lists, consider the ones, twos, and threes, and reflect on which items came out on top. Prioritizing these checklists can also help you make the inevitable trade-offs.
It’s very likely you won’t get all your needs met by any one location, community, or home, so you’ll want to make the choice that seems to fill most of your essential needs. Be sure to rate your current location, community, and home based on these two lists as well in order to compare them with the other options you’re considering.
One thing that’s interesting to note: Even after evaluating other locales, many people end up staying in their same general location, since that’s where their family and friends live. However, they often pick a different house and community that better meets their needs.
Spend the time it takes to plan all aspects of the rest of your life. You won’t regret it.