Five tips for retiring in the right place
A conventional retirement area full of gray-haired people just doesn't apply to baby boomers, who are inclined to make their own rules, even during the golden years. But some proven planning techniques will help boomers find a great place to grow oldor act like a kid again. Ideally, it may take 10 years to explore and identify your retirement destination, says David Savageau, author of Retirement Places Rated. Five key things to consider when winnowing your list:
Cost of living. This is the No. 1 factor for most people deciding on a place to retire, according to Savageau. If you're on a fixed income, you have to make sure that the town fits your budget. Obviously, if you can save money by moving to someplace less expensive, it will add to your net worth. Armchair explorers can take quizzes to check out living costs and other important factors at www.bestplaces.net, www.findyourspot.com, or www.neighborhoodscout.com. You'll also want to scope out the availability and cost of different types of housing such as condos, apartments, and houses. And don't forget about taxes; check rates in different states at www.taxadmin.org.
The local economy. Numerous studies indicate that baby boomers have every intention of continuing to work in retirement. If you do plan to hold a job, make sure that your chosen location has employment opportunities and a strong economy. This might rule out resort and military towns that are dependent on a single industry. Instead, you should look for a diversified economy and chances to work in your field of choice.
Proximity to home. Consider how close you want to live to your children and grandchildren. Most people who move at retirement are more likely to stay close to home rather than move farther away, says Brookings Institution demographer William Frey. Some 51 percent of people relocate within the same county, and 73 percent move within the same state, he says. If you plan to travel on a regular basis, plan on living near an airport or train station.
Amenities. Read up on basics like crime rates and access to healthcare. But don't forget about libraries, Internet access, outdoor activities, museums, shopping, religious institutions, sporting events, and cultural attractions. University towns often have lots of stimulating activities and a neighborly feel. Many retirees also like to take college classes or volunteer. Andrew Schiller, president and founder of NeighborhoodScout, suggests making a list of things you love about your current home and adding other things you long for. Then use that list to research retirement towns. One way to tell if you might like an area: Try it out. "Take vacations in those places that appear to be doing very well in the things that are important to you," Schiller advises.
Weather. You'll probably still complain about the weather. But now you have the opportunity to pick the climate that suits your lifestyle. If your back prevents you from shoveling snow, don't move to Wisconsin. And if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchenand Arizona. Some retirees get the best of both worlds by maintaining residences in the North for the summer, then heading south for the winter.