I recently spoke with a couple of friends who expressed frustration about their parents’ retirement locales.
One said his retired mother always complained about the dreadful Arizona heat while the other didn’t like the fact that there were so many bugs at his parents’ retirement home in Florida.
Where you choose to live in retirement can drastically change your overall financial plan. The question, “Where do I want to retire?”, is one of the most basic questions people need to ask themselves when planning to leave the workforce.
Will you really be happy in a new location? The answer will vary from person to person. What are you looking for? Will that relocation add to or subtract from your quality of life?
With your happiness in mind, consider the following eight questions before you finalize a major move in retirement.
1. How will you fill your days?
Weekends always seem to come and go quickly, but with nothing to do all day when not working – days can seem endless. “What will I do all day?”, is a seemingly simple question that many people forget to ask themselves before retiring and relocating to enjoy their retirement years.
Making the decision to move may be difficult if you have an active social life. For my workaholic readers who only drive from home to the office and back, moving may be quite a bit easier.
Has the hustle and bustle of city life exhausted you? Do you dream of moving to the country to enjoy the peace and quiet?
On the flip side, are you bored to death living in the county and yearn for the excitement of city life? A move to the city may be in your future.
Additionally, beach life dreamers should keep in mind that while beach towns are great for vacations, they may not be as appealing during winter months. They may also lack nightlife and cultural experiences. Think about your hobbies and whether or not you will still be able to participate in and enjoy those hobbies in the new location.
2. Will it be difficult to visit family?
The majority of my family lives in Southern California. Driving to celebrate Christmas or Thanksgiving is much easier than flying across the county on some of the busiest travel days of the year.
That brings up an important question. Will moving make it easier or more difficult to see your family? While technology, such as Skype and FaceTime, has made it easier to see and catch up with friends and loved ones, some may argue that it really isn’t the same as face-to-face time in person.
Conversely, I know retirees who have purposely put more miles between themselves and their families in order to get out of endless “free” childcare. While they love their grandchildren, watching kids is a lot of work and there is a reason most people have kids when they are younger.
If you are moving to be closer to your grand kids, ask yourself how likely is your family to stay put. You don’t want to put down new roots only to have them relocate due to a job transfer.
3. Are you open to renting in retirement?
I go more in depth on this topic here SHOULD RETIREES RENT OR OWN?. If you are moving somewhere new, consider renting. That will give you the most flexibility if you change your mind or perhaps pick the wrong neighborhood. It may seem crazy to those who have owned homes their entire adult lives to end up renting in retirement, but it can make financial sense in some circumstances.
Renting allows you to figure out where in the town you fit. It also gives you time to see whether or not you can handle the four seasons (or lack of seasons in Los Angeles) that come with a new hometown. Renting also relieves the stress of home maintenance. The landlord is responsible for scheduling and paying for maintenance and repairs.
Downsizing in retirement can be a great way to cut costs and responsibility. On the other hand, some couples get a little ambitious on how small a place they can handle. Renting offers the flexibility to upsize or further downsize, if needed. It also makes it easier to move again if you find that another location would be better in order to be closer to friends or family.
4. Will you have easy access to medical care?
Medical care is often one of the biggest issues when planning for retirement. That country estate may look gorgeous, but the three-hour drive to see a doctor may not be ideal. Actually, that sounds downright horrible.
If you’re considering a move abroad, will doctors accept your U.S. health insurance or Medicare? Will you get quality treatment for your current and future medical ailments?
Finding a great doctor is hard enough in a big city and other parts of the U.S. Living in a foreign country can present an additional layer of challenges.
5. What makes me happy?
What makes you happy? I love coffee with my morning newspaper and television news. While it shouldn’t be hard to get coffee anywhere I’d go, finding an actual newspaper, in English, might be more of a challenge. Even domestically, I know of some rural locations where newspapers are no longer delivered to individual homes.
Museums? Theater? Skiing? The Beach? Friends? Dining? What makes you happy? Will these be available in your new town? For more ways to have a happier retirement check out this post: Happy Retirement, How to Live Well in your Golden Years.
6. Who will you spend time with?
If you’ve lived in one place long enough, you’ve probably accumulated a lifetime of friends. Of course, if you have lived in one place long enough your lifetime of friends may have already moved away.
What social opportunities will you have in your new location? How will you make new friends? Many retirement communities offer an array of new social opportunities but other locations may be a bit more isolating.
Our aging society is facing a pandemic of elder isolation (source?) It’s important to keep yourself active and doing things that allow you to interact with people. That can include exercise, volunteer and travel groups to name a few.
7. What is wrong with where I call home now?
Sometimes the simplest question is the most important. Is there anything wrong with where you currently call home? Many people just assume they will move in retirement. Perhaps those individuals find it nice to think about a new carefree life somewhere “better” than where they currently live. But in fact, far fewer people move in retirement than you would think.
You have likely spent years, or even decades, building friendships and a community in one place. While some may dream of moving to a beach town or warmer climate, what will they be leaving behind? I live in Los Angeles and spend less time on our beaches than the beaches of Hawaii or Mexico in any given year. You can make new friends in your new town, but that will take time and effort.
8. Can I afford to move in retirement?
Depending on where you live, this question may morph into, “Can I afford to stay where I am?” A few years ago, I took on a client who was desperate to retire immediately as she was burned out at work. She thought selling her Southern California home seemed to be the best way to retire right away because nearly anywhere else would have a lower cost of living than LA. Luckily, and with a little work on my part, we came up with a retirement plan that allowed her to stay in her home, and near her grandchildren.
For others thinking of moving to more expensive locations, can you afford to make the move? How far will your housing dollars go in a more expensive city? How long will they last if you live by the beach? I work with a couple who have a retirement plan that allows for 10 years to live it up in Manhattan. After that, they will have to “retire” from the Big Apple Retirement to a cheaper locale. So, you do have options and can be creative. The key is to have a plan so you don’t end up flat broke at the age of 85.
Ultimately, the decision to move will likely be an emotional and financial choice. Where will you be the happiest? Where will your money go the furthest? Think long and hard before pulling the trigger on selling a home and moving across the county. Hopefully, the eight questions above will guide you towards the best decision for you and your retirement.
David Rae a Certified Financial Planner and Accredited Investment Fiduciary helping people make smarter financial decisions since 2003. Investopedia has name David one of the “100 Most Influential Financial Advisors” for 2017 and 2018.
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