Every year, financial and current events magazines publish “Best Retirement Location” lists. While one or two locations are repeated for a year or two. Most of the time the sites are new from year to year. The only way to determine your final oasis is to examine the criteria these magazines use to create their lists. Then check out the areas thoroughly to determine if the criteria have staying power in your targeted location.
The most important factor is affordability. If the cost of living is higher, are the costs in areas that won’t affect you? For instance, the cost of living may be high because the taxes are high. But your investigation may reveal senior citizen breaks, such as lower taxes or subsidized transportation. Where you want to live in the area will also affect the cost. If you’re looking at statistics for a metropolitan area, the figures may be inflated by high rents or home prices in the city. The suburbs may be cheaper.
Another major consideration is proximity to health and fitness facilities. Let’s face it. No matter how hard you work at maintaining your health, the odds are that you will eventually develop chronic or acute illness. You need to know that qualified care is available. A friend who retired to Mexico several years ago suffered a detached retina. She visited an American-trained physician, who knew what needed to be done, but did not have the facility to treat it. She had to return to the US for treatment, doing further damage. You may need assisted living or in-home care at some point. Make sure there are facilities nearby that you could use.
The area’s growth plays an important part in your decision. That people are flocking to the new mecca is not necessarily desirable, unless you’re a lemming. You need to make sure that the area has a development plan to handle the rush. Otherwise, you could end up with traffic jams, reduced public services, and utility deficiencies ten or fifteen years down the road. It is better to move to an established area where you can see how they have handled growth.
Many of us do not want to fully retire. Even if you don’t plan to work, you may need to return to work. So make sure the employment outlook is good. Even if you don’t want to work, a high unemployment rate is a sign that the tax base could erode. If that happens, you could end up seeing your tax bills rise more than you expected.
Climate is one of the main reasons we want to relocate. We no longer have the inclination to shovel snow and want to spend more time outdoors, now that we don’t have to sit at a desk everyday. As we all know, those warm places also experience hurricanes, droughts, hail and tornadoes. Be sure you are prepared, physically, emotionally and physically, to handle the evacuations, repairs, power outages and insurance. If not, skip the location. Also, if considering a warmer climate, spend some time there in the summer. If you want a colder climate, visit in winter time. There’s a reason different climates have off-season tourist rates.
Cultural and political considerations are more important than you may think. Just moving from Washington DC to central Pennsylvania taught me that. People I lived and worked with after the move assumed everyone else was a Republican. Even though my views are considered moderate, I was labeled a ‘tree hugger’ within weeks. Many Americans are flocking to Central and South America, and the Carribean. Many of those areas are extremely conservative. Others are downright wild. You will want to visit for long periods of time to make sure that the location is a comfortable fit before you invest in the whole enchilada. The decision to relocate outside of the country is a heavy one.
Retirement offers lots of free time. You may think you will spend every day at the beach when you by that beach-front home. But the reality is that it gets old. What else will you be doing? Many of the best retirement places are near cities. That way, you can take advantage of the entertainment and sports venues not available in sparsely populated locales. When the city has one or more universities, you can take advantage of senior citizen discounts on classes, entertainment packages and other services. You also have exposure to the student population. This is a good situation for both groups, except maybe on Friday and Saturday nights.
In summary, you will need to do some digging and not decide impulsively. After considering the options, you may decide that the best place to live is right where you are now.