7 Factors to Help You Pick the Best Place to Call Home in Retirement
Factor #1: Cost of living
How much are groceries, gas, and average utilities where you want to retire or live next as a retiree? What's it going to cost you to dine out, golf, see a movie, or even live month to month in one place versus the next?
Look for that sweet spot where you can access the things you like, enjoy the good life, and still stretch your dollars far.
Tip: Research the latest cost of living data online, starting with credible sources, like the Federal Reserve.1 Or take a trip to experience different places firsthand, visiting as a tourist to really get a feel for what it costs to get around.
Factor #2: Climate
Will you have to deal with dramatic temperatures or seasonal changes in certain retirement locations? How could that restrict your activities, create extra work, or present new risks for getting around?
Weather and climate year-round can shift wildly, depending on where you want to be. That could mean anything from more tourists and traffic to weather-related risks, like ice and snow.
Tip: Rent for at least 6 months in your chosen retirement spot before taking the plunge to buy a house. That could uncover climate-related issues, like more bugs in the summer or freezing temperatures in the winter, that could be deal breakers for you.
Factor #3: Where loved ones are
How far will you have to travel to visit your loved ones, especially any kids or grandkids in your family? Would certain locations limit visits to a couple of times a year, like the holidays only?
Your close relationships can be a near-endless source of joy before and after you retire. And if you stay close in terms of physical location, it can be easier to stay connected, enjoy the company of your loved ones, and occasionally get (or offer) help when it's needed.
Tip: If you want to live somewhere that's not necessarily close to your loved ones, consider locations with or near a commercial airport. That can make traveling anywhere, including back and forth to see loved ones, much easier.
Factor #4: Ability to stay active
Where can you get out and do what you like to do? What different opportunities are available or would you have to give up in one potential retirement spot versus another?
Staying active and social can be key to your happiness as a retiree. And being able to enjoy your favorite activities won't be as fulfilling if you can't enjoy them with the folks you care about.2
Tip: Look for areas where it's not going to be difficult to stay active and make new friends around your age. That doesn't mean you have to look at retirement communities. Instead, keep an eye out for places that will give you regular access to events, activities, or volunteering opportunities you can enjoy.
Factor #5: Access to healthcare
What doctors, dentists, and/or specialists are available in different retirement hotspots? What type of access would you have to pharmacies and emergency healthcare in one area versus another? And how easy or difficult will it be to get the medical equipment or supplies you need in one spot or the next?
Even if your health is stellar right now, there's no telling what tomorrow will bring — and it's no secret that age can open up the door to more health issues. Plus, many retirees end up having to move late in life, like in their 80's, to get access to better healthcare. That could be avoided by simply thinking about healthcare needs before making a move in retirement.
Tip: Consider telemedicine, medication subscriptions, and/or medical supply delivery options. That can eliminate the need to travel at all for some of your healthcare. Also, if you're considering moving abroad in retirement, remember, Medicare does not cover the healthcare you receive overseas.3
Factor #6: Tax responsibilities and opportunities
How tax friendly are different retirement locations? Where will you have to shell out more in income or Social Security taxes?
Currently, some of the most tax-friendly states to retire in are Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, and New Hampshire because they don't tax Social Security or pension income.4 Of course, that's just one tax responsibility to consider. Beyond those taxes, you'll also want to look at sales and property taxes.
Tip: Sit down with a financial professional to evaluate your tax situation and how it's going to change when you retire. Don't forget to factor in any plans you may have to work part-time because that could change your tax situation too.
Factor #7: Inflation
The higher prices that come with inflation can put the squeeze on retirement savings. And not every area is hit the same when inflation rears its ugly head. In fact, some areas can be hit much harder, seeing prices skyrocket, while others are more insulated.
So, which cities have been hit the hardest by recent bouts of inflation?
Anchorage, Phoenix, Atlanta, Seattle, and Miami are just a few, according to recent data. On the flip side of the coin are Los Angeles and San Francisco, both of which haven't seen huge price jumps due to recent inflation.5
Tip: Check out food prices for a quick and easy gauge of local prices and inflation impacts. Also, think about whether you're open to working part-time in retirement if inflation drains your savings. Having a backup plan and knowing when to put that in play can give you some priceless peace of mind.