Where Is the Best Place to Retire?
As baby boomers near retirement, many want to leave their current geographic location and move somewhere else. The reasons for the decision to move are as varied as the folks who make them. Some live in their current city only because their employer transferred them there. Some have lived in the same place all their lives, but now want a different climate. Many want to move closer to children, grandchildren, or other relatives. A slower pace of life beckons some currently living in big cities, and a lower cost of living appeals to nearly everyone nowadays.
Whatever the reason for wanting to relocate, growing numbers of retirees seek the best places to retire. What is the best retirement place? Of course, that question doesn’t have just one answer. To us here at Great Retirement Places, the best place to retire will have a warm and sunny climate, with palm trees native and no snow, ever. After we get the climate right, we look for the rest of our criteria. However, your criteria might be very different from ours. For example, if you want to move to be nearer to relatives, your destination city might be predetermined. If that is your situation, lucky you! Most of your work is already done.
The rest of us usually have several criteria that we must consider. Among the most common are inexpensive to moderate cost of living, good nearby healthcare, climate, local cultural and recreational activities, convenient public transportation and airport access, opportunities for an active lifestyle, reliable community services, close proximity to shopping, and a low crime rate. You will need to sit down with a paper and pencil and decide which criteria are most important to you and which ones are negotiable. Look at the list over several weeks or even months until you have a list you believe fills all your needs.
You also must decide what kind of community you want to choose. You might want to continue to live in a traditional free-standing home in a family neighborhood of mixed ages. But increasingly, seniors choose retirement communities of maintenance-provided villas, condos, or manufactured homes as the best retirement place. Many prefer the security, as well as the quieter surroundings without commuter traffic or active children.
Next, you should decide the size of the city or town you want to live in and at least a general section of the country (or world) where you want to settle. After that, the real work begins. You will have to spend some time online to find statistics related to all the criteria on your list. Chambers of Commerce are good places to start. The Internet abounds with endless sites for retirement living, but be wary of those sponsored by realtors. Too often, they paint rosy pictures that ignore drawbacks. Articles from reputable magazines (U.S. News, AARP, Newsweek, Fortune, etc.) are good sources.
When you have narrowed your list to no more than four or five cities or areas, it’s time to plan visits to these locations. Try to spend about a week in each one. Spend some time driving to different areas of the city or the surrounding countryside. Spending only a day or two exploring only one part of a retirement destination might not provide a very accurate picture. Take copious notes, make videos, take pictures, or otherwise record your impressions of each community. When you get home from each trip, talk about the location and compare it to those you have already seen. Let the information settle in, but don’t let it fall from memory.
Before long, one or two locations will stand out in your mind. But don’t jump yet! Make another visit to each of these finalists. Try to visit at a different time of year than on your first trip. Not only can the weather be different, but the population could be surprisingly different. If one of your locations is a college town, chances are the summer population will be considerably different from when school is in full session. If your choice is a popular tourist attraction, off-season is bound to be strikingly different from in-season. You might want to strike up conversations with shopkeepers or other residents in neighborhoods you find particularly appealing.
Finally, when you decide on your own best place to retire, take one last step to be sure you love your new location. Rent a home for six to twelve months before you buy. You might find out that a guy a block away has three dogs that bark all night or that the house across the backyard has a garage band. Sometimes a change of just a mile or two can make the difference between a perfect home and a mistake.
When you proceed slowly, plan well, do research, and make trial runs, you will have laid the foundation for finding your own best place to retire. Happy hunting—we wish you well!