Imagine that moment when you are finally free from the world of work and are free to live your life as you see fit. The transition to retirement involves many complex decisions, and deciding where to live is a big decision. Without the constraints of work that tie you to a particular place, it’s an opportunity to ask yourself whether to relaunch for a new start in the destination of your dreams, or stay where you are.
There’s comfort and a sense of security in staying in your current home, but moving presents new opportunities, potential financial benefits, and perhaps a climate that better suits your lifestyle. Common options for choosing a place to live in retirement include: staying where you are, downsizing to a smaller, more manageable home, moving in with family members, moving to a brand new location, or moving into a form of retirement residence.
It can be exciting to create a new life in a different place, however, choosing a retirement location requires careful thought. It’s a huge decision, so you want to get it right the first time. Here are some key questions to consider:
1. Should I just stay where I am?
Many people have a deep emotional attachment to their family home. The bonds you have forged over the years with your friends, family and community will strongly influence your decision to stay or leave. While emotionally it may seem like the right decision is to stay put, it’s important to assess whether this home will continue to meet your unique needs as you age. Important factors to consider include:
- Stay independent as long as possible. Anticipate potential physical changes.
- Is your home accessible if you need a mobility aid like a walker or wheelchair?
- Is it possible to make accessibility changes, such as adding grab bars and handrails, in the future?
- Cleaning a large house can be a daunting task. Can you afford to pay for help if needed?
- Property maintenance can become overwhelming. Do you manage to mow the lawn, maintain the flowerbeds and manage the snow removal?
Getting to know your community and the services available to you can be a source of comfort. Starting over in a new place, having to make new friends and learning about new community services can be overwhelming.
In my retirement coaching practice, people report that the main reasons they choose to stay at home are that they have supportive friends, know about the services available to them, and feel comfortable in their environment.
2. Does moving make financial sense for me?
One of the obvious reasons to consider relocation is to minimize living expenses. Downsizing is common when the goal is to have a simpler, smaller, cheaper, and more manageable living space. When moving from a single-family home to a condo or retirement residence, there are financial implications to consider:
- Monthly maintenance fees and potential additional fees for certain facilities in a condo
- Selling costs of your current home
- Preparing your home for sale may require painting, repairs
- Taxes, realtor fees, moving costs
- If you are moving abroad, consider the costs of health care and health insurance
- If you are leaving family, factor in travel costs to visit
Choosing where to live in retirement is as much a financial decision as an emotional one. Some people will consider moving to a place where taxes, cost of living, and housing costs might be lower. According to David Abate, senior wealth advisor at Strategic Wealth Partners in Independence, Ohio, “downsizing, such as moving to a smaller, more manageable property in the same area, is the most common move people do”.
3. What equipment will be available?
Retirement is your chance to live your best life. When faced with the decision of where you might choose to spend those years, consider the amenities that will be available to you in your chosen location. Invest your time in doing detailed research on the community where you hope to retire. You want to make sure that your new community will provide you with the recreation you desire, but also the services you may need as you progress.
- Take inventory of your favorite hobbies. Are these activities available?
- Are medical services available?
- If medical services are required, can you access these services if you are in a remote area?
- Is public transport adequate if you don’t drive or reach a point where you can’t drive anymore?
- How accessible are the bank, library, community center and shops?
- If needed, is personal care and meal assistance available?
- Is the airport close if you like to travel?
- Are there opportunities for socializing, fitness and wellness activities?
- Are there opportunities for cultural experiences?
- Are there social spaces – common areas available to meet and socialize – such as bars, pubs, patios and restaurants?
4. Will you have access to quality healthcare and community services?
Health care should be a primary consideration for anyone considering relocating in retirement. It is good practice to anticipate your future health care needs and plan for unexpected health changes as well. Early in retirement, when you’re healthy and active, future health care needs can be easy to overlook. Find out about the medical services that are available in your new location. Although you may not need a lot of services at this stage of retirement, it is worth finding out if seniors’ activity centers, clubs, home care and assisted transportation are present in your new community. If you choose a remote location, is there access to quality health care? Can we get there without a car? If you are moving out of state, contact your health insurance company to confirm if you have coverage in your new location.
5. How is the family taken into account?
Faced with the possibility of living wherever you want, moving to a new place in a distant country can seem extremely attractive. If you decide to put some distance between you and your loved ones, be sure to factor in round-trip travel costs. Are you ready to accept that family visits become less frequent and more expensive?
While residing close to family can include responsibilities such as caring for your aging parents or grandchildren, there are many wonderful reasons to stay close. Being nearby helps develop strong relationships with grandchildren. You can make yourself available to help adult children juggle their busy lives or help them when they are in need. Close family also provides a support system that can help with physically demanding tasks or help drive to appointments. Having family nearby also allows for regular visits, which can help alleviate social isolation in a new community.
It’s worth thinking about any boundaries you might want to set before getting closer to your family. Have conversations about boundaries and expectations before becoming the default babysitter. Consider the type of role you would like to play in the lives of your grandchildren and children. Be aware that adult children are often building their careers at this stage and they may pick up and move on as soon as you get there.
According to the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, retirees move for a variety of reasons. They identified the top three reasons as follows:
- 32% want to be closer to family and friends
- 29% want to reduce their expenses
- 29% want to move to a smaller house
There are many things to consider before embarking on a big move. This may be for financial reasons, a better climate, or perhaps a more rural way of life. If you feel like moving to your favorite vacation destination, be careful not to confuse leisure experiences with real life.
Clinical psychologist Nancy Irwin, PsyD, says, “We tend to idealize places where we are cared for, not working, cleaning or cooking. Consider taking an extended vacation and going about your daily life as if you were there full time. Also, be sure to visit this place at different times of the year to get a clear idea of what year-round life might be like.
Give yourself time to make this decision. Don’t rush into something you might regret later. You have the rest of your life to make this decision, so take the time to do it right. You also don’t need to make this decision in isolation. If you involve your family in the process, they may have useful information, ideas, or contacts that can help you.
Finally, having a clearly defined “why” before you uproot your life is essential to your long-term happiness. Without it, you might find yourself feeling dissatisfied and wanting to go back to what’s comfortable and familiar. As with all other retirement changes, take the time to clearly define the lifestyle you want to adopt in retirement. From there, you can decide if moving makes sense for you and the ideal retirement life you want to create.
If you’re looking for places to retire, check out these articles: