Picking a place to retire is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. Too many people make that decision impulsively. They decide they want to live somewhere warm or with lower living costs or with a good health system. Yes, finances, weather and good doctors are important, but so are social connections, political orientation, and a host of other factors.
Gale, a single schoolteacher from Washington D.C. decided she wanted to retire someplace beautiful and warm with a lot of cultural activities. She’d visited Tucson and loved it there so moved there after retirement. Two years later she moved again because she had failed to make friends in Tucson, which, despite its urban vibe was unwelcoming to newcomers. She moved to South Florida, which she’d originally rejected because she didn’t like the cultural life there, but because Florida had many recent arrivals like herself it was easy to make friends.
Is the local culture a fit?
Bob an IT professional and his wife, Laurie, a massage therapist, retired from Albany New York to Charleston South Carolina. They fell in love with the beauty of the city and the friendly vibe. What they failed to take into account was that they were Jewish left-liberals and that Charleston is a red state in the deep South with a lot of residual racism and mostly Christian values, They invested in real estate there so are stuck, but they’re not happy.
Here’s how to avoid costly retirement mistakes
- Does it fit your retirement ‘mission?” Does a retirement location support your retirement “purpose?” Lauren McLaughlin, a Florida minister, says “people who have enjoyed fulfilling or active careers are not going to be happy golfing or playing canasta all day.” Those who know what their next life’s purpose or mission is before they retire will be drawn to a community that supports that purpose, whether it’s helping the homeless, starting a new business or working part time in the “gig” economy.
- Try a few before you move. Review the different cities or towns you’ve dreamed of living in before you make a permanent move. Pick your top two and do a one year rental in each. Immerse yourself in the local lifestyle. Volunteer. Join local organizations. See how easy it is to make friends and get involved in the community. Consider the logistics of your day to day life—getting to stores, gym, place of worship, airports. Can you see yourself living there?
- Use online resources. Find the local NextDoor.com site, and get to know people on it. Tell the locals you’re thinking of moving there and ask what kinds of resources are available. Most cities and towns now have active NextDoor.com sites, and many have local Facebook sites for their town. Put the name of your retirement destination into NextDoor.com’s and Facebook’s search engine and see what comes up.
- Consider your family ties. Figure out how you’re going to maintain family relationships from a distance. Some retirees move across the country and find themselves missing being part of their grandchildren’s lives as they grow up, and end up moving back. It might be wiser to pick a retirement destination that’s a quick, inexpensive flight away from family, or retire closer to your children.
- Find a way to live near your essential support system. This is especially important for singles, says Sara Zeff Geber, Ph. D, founder of LifeEncore and author of Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers. “It might be in an adult community, co-housing community, a condo complex or mobile home park. These options are increasing as communities realize the increasing numbers of older adults in their midst.”
Need more information? Try these online sources: