Everyone dreams of their uncomplicated, breezy retirement years, but we don't always think beyond the drinks in our hand and lounge chair outside. There's a lot to consider about where you should retire, and it's not a decision you should make lightly. Use these questions and tips as a starting point for choosing what's best for you.
6 Questions That Can Help You Decide Where to Retire
We're encouraged to run ourselves ragged towards the finish line of retirement -- but we're not encouraged to really think about what comes after. Don't get caught in a house that's too big or ill-equipped for your retirement lifestyle. Instead, brainstorm where you should retire to by asking yourself these questions:
1. What Hobbies or Activities Fill Your Downtime?
When you're looking at new places to live, there's such a focus on what it looks like. Beachfront properties this and lakeside properties that. But the landscape isn't going to occupy all that new time you have on your hands.
Do yourself a favor and consider what stuff you like to do right now. Chances are, you'll still be doing it when you retire. If you love golfing or pickleball, you want to look for places that have easy access to them. If you're a big gardener, you'll probably want a home with a big yard or condo with a community garden.
2. Do You Want to Continue Working?
When you've worked for decades, suddenly stopping isn't always the dream everyone makes it out to be. If you love to stay busy and love working, then retiring could look different for you. Retiring might just be stepping down from a managerial role or going part-time.
If you think you're going to want to work past retirement, that decision will lead you to a place that has more businesses in your area of interest. Moving out to the boondocks is great until the nearest place to get a part-time job is 45 minutes away.
3. What's Your Mobility Like?
Aging comes with many challenges, and declining mobility is one of them. That old kickball injury might flare up into painful, stiffened joints that makes walking harder. When you're getting older, you have to be realistic about where your body is at the moment and where it might end up.
Being mindful of your mobility will help you make the best decision for where to retire. If you've got bad knees or ankles, a two or three-story place might not be a great idea.
4. What Does Your Budget Look Like?
When you reach retirement, budgeting takes on a whole new meaning. Careful financial planning or no, you still have to be conscious of your funds because there are fewer avenues for accruing them, and who knows what the future will hold.
Before you set your heart on a place that's not really beneficial to your financial future, figure out what you can afford and look for places in that range.
5. Is There Family You Want to be Close To?
If you've got a big family with lots of children and grandchildren, then picking out a retirement spot might feel like walking through a minefield. Move too close to any kid or grandkid and you might be accused of picking favorites.
But, if you've got family on your mind, then you might want to look for places that are centrally located to everyone. Or you might choose something not quite close by, but large enough that family can come and vacation with you whenever they have the time.
And it might be a situation where you just have to have some honest conversation with your kids or other family members as you think about the decision. Maybe one of your children and/or grandchildren lives in a warmer state that you would love to live in as well. It's ok to think about your needs and wants, too, even if it doesn't make everyone happy. You might have to be a little more intentional in spending time with other family members if you don't live as close to them, but you can still have a strong connection.
5. Do You Want to Travel or Vacation a Lot?
With retirement-level downtime on your hands, you might fill that void that work used to fill with traveling. But if you're going to be on the go all the time, you might not want to be locked down with a property that requires a ton of maintenance. Why pay a big mortgage on the mythic retirement property if you're hardly going to be spending any time in it?
5 Tips for Finding the Perfect Retirement Spot
Once you've pondered a little over the parameters of the types of places that'll work best for you, and your partner if you're retiring with one, it's time to start manifesting the perfect place. Here are a few tips to get you from the dream board to move-in day:
1. Don't Limit Your Search to Just Houses
There are way more options of places to live today than just typical two- or three-bedroom houses. Expand your search to include other properties like:
- Retirement communities
- Long-term AirBnBs
2. Don't Rush Finding a Place
Just because you retired doesn't mean you have to have the last phase of your life completely figured out. There's still time to find that perfect place to retire to. Don't rush into the first community or location you find that only kind-of fits your wants just to get the thing over and done with. Do yourself a favor and wait for the right place.
3. Accept That It Might Not Be Perfect
There's not a single perfect house on the planet, and you're not going to retire to some mythical Golden Girls' lifestyle either. There'll be drawbacks, no matter how small, and you don't want to ruin the first few years of your retirement feeling resentful that all of your problems didn't clear up the minute you moved somewhere new.
4. Consider What You'll Need -- Not What You Have
You're not trying to one-up the property you're already living in. Instead, you're probably looking for something that you can manage as you get less mobile, less active, and tired of cleaning all the time. So, you might not want to move to a space to match everything about the place you're living in and then have to look for places that'll fit what you want in 15+ years.
5. Use Retiring as a Time to Declutter
For some of us, decluttering is a multi-week affair. One day, you wake up in your older age with a boatload of stuff that you can't even remember where it all came from. Retiring and moving places is the perfect time to declutter your home. Consider getting rid of those "I just need the right time to use it" things and the "Oh I forgot I even had this" stuff.
Make Retirement Feel Like Home
After working so hard for so long, you deserve to find a place to retire to that fits all your needs. No two retirement dreams are going to look the same, but the way to make retirement feel like home is by picking a place you like because you're the one who's going to be living in it for hopefully a long time.