The American dream in the retirement stage is to live an easy life, one where you will not feel worried about paying for the necessities and where you can relax and feel at ease. So many decisions, and you want to make sure you get them right.
Should you stay where you are? Maybe your home is already paid off, and this is where your friends and family are. Perhaps you want a climate change. Should you move to one of your favorite vacation spots? How about the same place your best friends moved to last year, the place you have never been to? Realize that what may work for one person may not be your ideal.
Based on several surveys conducted by AARP, Forbes and U.S. News, some of the more popular retirement destinations include various cities in warm, sunny Florida; Pittsburgh; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Nashville, Tennessee; Ashville, North Carolina; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Grand Rapids, Michigan. A few spots outside of the U.S. also claimed fame, including Costa Rica, Panama, Portugal and Thailand.
Know what your income is expected to be once you retire, and consider your Social Security payments and your pension payments, if any. Some key issues to consider before choosing a location include housing affordability, taxes, health care quality and access, climate and overall cost of living.
As for health care, will you be old enough to get Medicare, or will you still rely on an insurance marketplace? If you'll still need insurance, check out the average rates and the coverage. Contact the local tax departments to find out whether your Social Security or pensions will be taxed at the local, state or federal levels. And even if your income won't be taxed, what are the property and school taxes you might have to pay? Finally, how does your possible destination treat the elderly, financially and socially? Are there programs to help with tax relief? Are there senior centers? Like it or not, you are aging; are there convenient resources to help you along the way?
Unless you are in a hurry to move, take a vacation first, or a couple of them. Book a hotel room in a location you might be considering; better yet, book a room in a long-term hotel. Don't be a tourist. Visit the places you would be going to if you lived there: grocery stores, houses of worship, libraries, entertainment venues, museums, hobby stores, sports venues, banks and gyms. If you have a pet that will be moving with you, be sure to research veterinarians and pet food supplies. And be sure to pick up a few local newspapers to read the news highlights and editorials. Do you think you will both feel comfortable and be welcomed living there? If possible, try to meet people and talk about the town. If the area is filled with homeowners associations that you might consider, be sure to learn their rules and make sure they are amenable to you.
After you've spent so many years working toward your retirement dream, it is easy to forget you are still aging and your everyday living needs might change, often without warning. You or your spouse might need extra medical care, or you might need to modify your home to make it more age-in-place appropriate. Sadly, you might find that, one day, you'll have to afford things on only one income. And while hopping on a plane or taking a long road trip might not seem a burden to you now, getting to see your loved ones easily as the years go by might not be so simple in the future. Hopefully, you will have many years where you won't have to worry about these things, but down the road, it may not be so easy to uproot yourselves again. These are considerations to keep in mind.