Retirement Decision Guide


Planning Your Retirement

A world of choices awaits you!  Wonderful places with much to offer!  Great lifestyles!  Good weather!  All sorts of activities and amenities!  Very different cost structures and choices of activities.  How do you choose?  Should you move — or should you just stay where you are now?

Many people approach retirement with a vague notion that they should move away from their hometowns after they retire, but aren’t sure where.  An equally important question: Why should I move after retirement?  Maybe you shouldn’t. Many people assume that relocating is an obligatory part of retirement.  Actually, a great majority don’t move away when they retire.  For some, moving to a new town or a different state and starting over just doesn’t make sense.  But for others, finding a new home can be exciting and can contribute to a longer, happier life.

Only you know your wants, your needs, hopes and fears, your dreams, and your means. Only you can state the “gotta haves”, the “very importants”, or the “deal breakers.”

When deciding where to retire, you will want to begin with a systematic process to help you think logically and realistically about choosing what to do. That is what this section is all about. Because individuals “reason differently,” we offer a six-step decision-making process to help you with your planning.

  1. Commit in Writing
  2. The Case for Moving
  3. The Case for “Staying Put”
  4. Relocation Strategies
  5. Things to Consider
  6. Settling Into a New Community

To help you in making this important decision, we have prepared a work sheet covering the first three decision-making steps.  You should download it, print it out and answer the questions.

Click here to download the PDF work sheet.

Thoughtful Planning

Free Guide from Retirement Living

Once you have completed the work sheet, then return to this page to complete decision-making steps 4, 5 and 6.  These steps will help you think about other important issues in planning the next phase of your life.

Decision Process #4 – Relocation Strategies

Vacation There: Take a vacation with a plan to learn about the area.  It will help you get a feel for what life would be like living there.

Sell Before You Buy: In order to reduce financial exposure (and worry), sell your current home before you contract for a home in your new location.  Consider that once you’ve determined where you plan to retire, you can store your furnishings and rent for six months or longer at a very reasonable cost.

Rent and Store All Your Furnishings:  If you can find an unfurnished house in the area where you plan to purchase (or build), sign a 6 to12-month lease and move everything to that location. Everything is safe and under your watchful eye, and not in a warehouse.  Unpack only what you need and leave the rest boxed, ready for the final move.  Be there to oversee the construction, or, take your time finding a house.

Keep Your Home and Rent a “Get Away” Condo:  Whether you live in the North and want to winter where it is warmer, or live in Florida and want to go to cooler weather in July and August.  This approach makes sense for many.  You keep your home base in tact and shed the most undesirable weather.

Incremental Move: First, you rent there.  Next, you lease for a little longer. Assuming all goes well, you look for a place to buy.  Now you spend six months or so there.  Ultimately you sell your house and you move permanently to the new location.

Grandma & Grandpa Annex:  One or more of your children live in a great retirement location.  Consider making an investment that builds an addition onto their house, a separate garage with an apartment, or completely separated living quarters on their lower level (walkout basement).  It has to be the perfect situation, but it can work!  And the investment is money they’d inherit anyway.

Hit The Road:  For some it is best to take a chunk of time right after retirement to see the country , read some books, reflect and clear your mind.  You may want to rent an RV, but hitting the road in any way will enable you to meet people, share ideas, become “refreshed” and ready to move on.  Only then are you ready to think about a new location.  And chances are it will be one you’ve visited and spent time in.  This is a good way to learn and an excellent way to prepare yourself for a full move.

Cruise:  Boaters will understand.  If you are a sailor or a power boater this might be the strategy for you.  Head down the waterway (whether it is from Michigan, Illinois, upstate New York, Massachusetts, or Maryland – it doesn’t matter. You’ll meet other boaters who will give you information on retirement places for boaters.  Then visit the places you would like to consider and spend time there. You’ll know when you’ve found the right place.

Only a Day’s Drive:  This can be a condition of moving. It can mean friends will come to see you and you can get back there without the expense and hassle of flying.  Just go to the scale of miles on your map. Measure the distance for about 600 miles.  Tie a string to a pencil and put the free end where you now live.  Scribe an ark for the “600 mile limit of your search.”  It will surprise you how far away that can be.

Leverage Your Timeshare:  If you have a timeshare somewhere, use the credits to spend time in locations where you might wish to retire.

Decision Process # 5 – Things to Consider

Resource Center: Certain resources are critical such as an acute care hospital. Some are important — a doctor, dentist, pharmacy, grocery store, hardware store. Others are “lifestyle related” that will shape how you live and what your choices are — live theater, a symphony concert, fine dining, jazz, professional sports events, outlet shopping, continuing education, and a major airport. When you consider a retirement location you should know where these resources are located.  Decide how far are you willing to travel to get to them.

Major Universities: If cultural programs and sporting events are important to you, then check into the proximity of local colleges and universities. They also offer continuing education and growth opportunities, such as learning more about how to use your computer, or improving your painting skill.  For some it offers an employment opportunity as well.

Taxes:  Check the tax situation.  They are higher in larger population areas in order to pay for the infrastructure (fire, police, water, sewage, schools, etc.).  In fact, there are still many small towns in America where tax rates are very low. Nevertheless, it is important to check out property taxes.  Also see if there are tax reductions and exemptions for seniors.

Safety: Personal safety is important to many.  Nearly every location has areas that are quite safe and other neighborhoods that are unsafe.  For most of us, relative safety involves good awareness, asking questions and looking around. Realtors can be very helpful.

A Good Builder:  You may be in the market for a builder.  Look for “an honest person who also happens to build good houses.”  To find one you need to network aggressively, i.e. ask a lot of people.  The term “network” as used here refers to persons whom you know and trust.  But when relocating, you need to ask the people next door, the bank manager, someone who has just built a house, etc.  Look for personal integrity in a builder — it can be crucial.

Chamber of Commerce: Your local Chamber of Commerce can be a wonderful resource.  Not all of them are, but it is worth asking.  They can help you “size up the community” in a hurry if you ask good questions.  They can, for example, steer you away from a problem area, suggest a couple of good Realtors, recommend a bank, or even the name of a good law firm, should you need one to close on a property.

High Speed Internet Connections: These days fast Internet access is important to many people.  However, fast connections are not available everywhere, especially in sparsely populated areas.  And they are not ubiquitous even in more populated areas.  The ability to obtain this service depends on the quality of the telephone facilities and cable service on your street.  Newer active adult communities are wiring their developments for high speed Internet access. If you choose this type of living, ask whether they have this service.

Cellular Telephone Service: Cell phone service may or may not be reliable in the area – or even available.  While expansion is continuing nationwide, some rural areas may not see good service for some time.

Traffic:  If you want to avoid traffic problems after you retire, be sure to make that a part of your criteria for selecting a location.

Decision Process # 6 – Settling Into a New Community

Get involved  — and do it quickly.  It is important to become a part of the community, make new friends and to meet people you can relate to.  The sooner you get involved, the more “value” you will find in your new surroundings.  Be sure to subscribe to the local newspaper to see what is going on.  You may want to subscribe before you move.   Many newspapers are available online so you can begin to look at them and even subscribe online.  Click here to find the paper for your new location.

Newcomers:  If there is such an organization, it can be a tremendous help in quickly meeting people and expanding your knowledge base.

Club/Activity Group:  Join the golf club, the guild, garden club, yacht club, the skeet club, bridge group, etc., etc.  It is not necessarily a long-term commitment, but it multiplies your contacts of local knowledge quickly.

Places of Worship:  It is sometimes easy to find a church where you feel comfortable very quickly — or it can take time.  A church is an excellent way to meet people.

Participate:  Get out there and get involved!  Check out the local papers. Go to the civic theater, attend the local band concert, go to the “Mum Fest”, or “Christmas Walk”, or whatever your new community celebrates.

Volunteer:  Check the local paper for organizations where you can volunteer your services.

Finding the resources you need:  To find doctors, a dentist, an auto repair place, a boat mechanic, a good builder, a church, an accountant, a lawyer — NETWORK, NETWORK, AND NETWORK.  It is very simple and extremely effective. Networking is “asking with a purpose.”  If you need an answer, go to your “network” — those individuals you know well enough to trust and value their opinions.  When you’ve lived in one place for many years, you take this for granted.  In a brand new location, where you don’t know a soul on the first day, you can see why it is so critical to meet people and get involved in the community quickly.

If your decision is to move to another city or town, then you need to start looking for those special places that fit within your Vision and Goal statements.  If you click here you will find a list of retirement destinations you may want to consider.  All of our suggested locations have been featured in publications and reports after being researched and selected as “great places to retire.”  We have prepared a report on each location with plenty of links to provide you with the most up-to-date information.   An index gives you a “thumbnail” look at each location.  From there you can quickly go to the full report about each one.

We believe our role is to provide you with good information that can help you in your evaluation of possible retirement destinations. But only you can decide which is best. As we identify other deserving locations, we will add them to our list.

Where To Retire

Take a Look at Some Great Places