The golden years. They are something that everyone looks forward to throughout their working life. Retirement is about doing what you enjoy and spending time with the people you love. Often, retirement means moving to a more desirable location. But how does one choose the ideal retirement destination? For most people, the starting point is to ask this question: “If I could live anywhere I want, where would it be?” Of course, this is a great way to brainstorm a list of possibilities, but there are many things to consider before choosing a retirement location.
Start with Practicality
It may sound like a wonderful idea to live in a villa in the Italian countryside; who wouldn’t want their own vineyard and endless Italian cuisine? However, if you can’t afford a villa or the upkeep and maintenance required, much less speak fluent Italian, this dream retirement is probably not meant to be. Besides, even if you could retire to Italy, is that really practical? Will your family be able to visit you often? Will you be able to afford to visit them?
The problem with imagining a retirement destination based on the idea that life is going to be a permanent vacation is that vacations are different than normal life. When you’re on vacation you eat out all the time, shop for non-essential items, and spend a lot of money on recreational activities like skiing, amusement parks or entertainment. These things are all wonderful, but no one can live like that all the time. Even if you wanted to live like that…could you afford to?
Unless you are very wealthy…with millions and millions of dollars in the bank, then money will likely be a big factor in determining where you can retire. This doesn’t mean that you can’t still choose a wonderful retirement location filled with a great variety of activities and options…it just means you have to look more closely at cost of living and what you can personally afford. Going into retirement with your eyes wide open will ensure that you enjoy your golden years to the fullest.
Will You Need To Work?
When choosing your retirement location one of the first things to ask yourself is if you will be needing to work at all. If you are fully retiring and ending your working life you will have a lot more options for locations. If, however, you intend to work a little during retirement, you’ll need to research possible areas to determine if they have jobs that fit your needs. Even if you aren’t picky about what kind of part time work you do in retirement, you still need to be realistic. If you are still set on that Italian Villa and only speak English, you may have trouble finding a job.
If you are not planning on working at all, you need to make sure you can afford the cost of living in the city you are retiring to. It’s important to make a sample budget that you are comfortable with, and then compare that to the cost of living in the destinations you are considering. If you can just barely afford the location you might want to think twice…one financial upset could put you over the edge. Chose a location where you can comfortably live with the current budget, as well as a slightly lower one…just in case.
Consider Tax Rates
When you are considering locations for cost of living don’t forget to take tax rates into account. Property taxes, state income taxes and the like can really add up quickly. Look for retirement friendly areas, such as South Carolina, that offer low tax rates and generous deductions for retirees.
Research Health Care
As we age, our health care needs go up. It’s just a fact of life. If you have chronic medical problems it’s important to consider that fact when choosing a retirement destination. You won’t want to live far away from good health care if you need to be seen by doctors often, for instance. Additionally, even retirees in good health need to prepare for possible future medical concerns. Checking out the available health care infrastructure in the cities you are considering is a very important step in determining your ideal retirement destination.
Refine Your Search
Now that you have taken a hard look at your budget, tax rates and health care you can refine your list of choices. Write down a list of things, like amenities that you cannot live without. Don’t be shy here…list them all. After all this will be your permanent home. If great coffee houses are important to you, put it on the list. Great concerts? Write that down too. Think about all the aspects of your daily life that are important and get them all on paper. Order them from most important to least important.
Now compare your list of “must haves” with the possible retirement destinations you are considering. Eliminate the locations that don’t have the things you want. Once you’re list has been narrowed down you are ready to get your feet wet! Another consideration for retirement living are 55+ communities
Test those Waters!
You are now prepared to visit the locations that have made it to the top of your list. Moving somewhere to retire is a huge decision and you shouldn’t make the decision until you have visited all the locations on your list.
Check out your destinations multiple times. See what they are like during different seasons and times of the year. Visit during peak times and off peak times. Walk the sidewalks or beaches, and check out local businesses. Interact with the people you meet. Imagine yourself living here. You will get a better idea of what you like and what you don’t like by letting yourself really experience the culture of the destinations you are considering.
Make the Move!
When you have found the right place, you’ll know it. It will just feel right. Once you know where you want to retire to, it’s time to make that move. Now that you have done your homework, the actual process of moving to your retirement destination will seem much less overwhelming. Putting in the work ahead of time is a small price to pay for many years of happiness in your retirement. After all, you’ve worked really hard to get here. You deserve it.