Imagine that moment when you are finally released from the world of work and you are free to live your life as you choose. The transition into retirement involves many complex decisions, and deciding where to live is a significant one. Without the constraints of work tying you to a particular place, this is an opportunity to consider whether to pull up stakes for a fresh start in your dream destination, or to remain right where you are.
There is comfort and a sense of safety in remaining 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 home that is smaller and easier to manage, moving in with family members, moving to a whole new location, or moving to some form of retirement residence.
It can be exciting to create a new life in a different location, however, choosing a place to retire requires careful consideration. This is an enormous decision, so you want to get it right the first time. Here are a few key questions to consider:
1. Should I Just Stay Where I Am?
Many people have a deep emotional attachment to their family home. The connections that you have forged over the years with your friends, family, and community will strongly influence whether you will stay or leave. While emotionally it might feel like the right decision is to stay put, it is important to evaluate whether this home will continue to meet your unique needs as you continue to age. Important factors to consider include:
- Remain independent as long as possible. Plan for potential physical changes.
- Is your house accessible should you require mobility assistance such as a walker or wheelchair?
- Is it possible to make accessibility changes, like adding grab bars and ramps, in the future?
- Housekeeping in a large home can become a daunting task. Can you afford to pay for help if required?
- Property maintenance can become overwhelming. Can you manage to cut the lawn, tend the flower beds, and manage snow removal?
It can be a source of comfort to be familiar with your community and the services that are available to you. Starting over in a new location, 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 in place are that they have supportive friends, they are familiar with the services available to them, and they feel comfortable in their surroundings.
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, less expensive, and more manageable living space. When moving from a single-family home to a condo or a retirement residence, there are financial implications to consider:
- Monthly maintenance fees, and potential extra charges for certain facilities in a condo
- Costs of selling your current home
- Preparing your home to sell could require painting, repairs
- Taxes, realtor fees, moving expenses
- If moving abroad, consider costs of healthcare and health insurance
- If moving away from family, consider costs of travel to visit
Choosing where to live in retirement is a financial decision as much as it is an emotional one. Some people will consider moving to a location where taxes, the cost of living, and housing costs might be lower. According to David Abate, senior wealth advisor with Strategic Wealth Partners, in Independence, Ohio, “Downsizing, such as moving to a smaller, more manageable property in the same area, is the most typical move people make.”
3. What Amenities Will Be Available?
Retirement is your opportunity 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 to do some detailed research into the community where you hope to retire. You want to make sure that your new community will offer you the leisure activities you desire, but also the services that you might require as you go forward.
- Take an inventory of your preferred leisure activities. Are these activities available?
- Are medical services available?
- If medical services are required, can you get to those services if you are in a remote area?
- Is public transportation adequate if you don’t drive, or if you reach a point where you are no longer able to drive?
- How accessible are the bank, library, community center, and shopping?
- Should the need arise, is personal care and meal help available?
- Is the airport close by if you enjoy travel?
- Are there opportunities for socialization, fitness, and wellness activities?
- Are there opportunities for cultural experiences?
- Are there social spaces — common spaces available to meet and socialize — like bars, pubs, patios, and restaurants?
4. Will You Have Access To Quality Healthcare And Community Services?
Healthcare should be a top consideration for anybody who plans to relocate in retirement. It is good practice to anticipate your future healthcare needs and plan for unexpected health changes as well. Early in retirement when you are healthy and active, future healthcare needs can be easy to ignore. Investigate the medical services that are available in your new location. While you may not need many services at this point in retirement, it’s worth discovering whether senior 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 healthcare? Can you get there without a car? If you move out of state, contact your health insurance company to confirm whether you have coverage in your new location.
5. How Does Family Factor In?
When faced with the possibility of living anywhere you choose, moving to a new place in a faraway land can feel extremely attractive. If you decide to put some distance between you and your loved ones, be sure to factor in the costs of travel back and forth. Are you willing to accept that visits with family might become infrequent and more expensive?
While residing near family may include responsibilities such as caring for your aging parents, or grandchildren, there are many wonderful reasons to remain close. Being in close proximity allows for developing strong relationships with grandchildren. You can make yourself available to help adult kids juggle their busy lives, or help them out when they’re in need. Close family also provides a support system that can assist with physically demanding chores or help with driving to appointments. Having family nearby also allows for regular visits, which can work to alleviate social isolation in a new community.
It is worth thinking about any boundaries you might want to set before you move close to family. Have conversations around boundaries and expectations before you find yourself becoming the default babysitter. Consider the type of role you would like to play in the lives of your grandchildren and children. Be mindful of the fact that adult children are often career-building at this stage, and the possibility exists that they might pick up and move as soon as you get there.
According to the Transamerica Centre for Retirement Studies, retirees move for a variety of reasons. They identified the top three reasons as follows:
- 32 percent want to be closer to family and friends
- 29 percent want to reduce expenses
- 29 percent want to downsize to a smaller home
There are many things to consider before jumping into a big move. It may be for financial reasons, a better climate, or perhaps a more rural lifestyle. If you have the urge to move 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 when we are catered to, are not working, are not cleaning or cooking.” Consider taking an extended vacation and living your daily life just as if you were there full-time. Also, make sure that you visit this place at different times of the year to get an accurate sense of what life might be like year-round.
Give yourself time to make this decision. Don’t rush into something that you might regret later. You have the rest of your life to make this decision, so take the time and get it right. You don’t need to make this decision in isolation either. If you involve your family in the process, they may have useful information, insights, or contacts who can assist you.
Finally, having a clearly defined “why” before you uproot your life is critical to your long-term happiness. Without this, you may find yourself dissatisfied and wanting to return to what is comfortable and familiar. As with all the other changes retirement brings, take the time to make clear the lifestyle you want to build in retirement. From there you can decide whether or not relocating will make sense for you and the ideal retirement life you wish to create.
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