Deciding where to live in retirement can be a very tricky decision and is “easier said than done” in most cases . The biggest pitfall is choosing the wrong place to live out your golden years. You might make the decision for all the right reasons, yet still find yourself unhappy or miserable. Compounding the matter could be that your significant other has completely different ideas on your retirement living arrangements. Unfortunately, this can become a very expensive decision to undo.
Fresh tears of frustration threatened anew. Every time it ended up in an argument! Oblivious to her misery, Matt snored in a deep sleep. It would be another sleepless night for her. It was all about his daughter who they only saw once a month at best. Rosie’s heart ached to be with her son, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren. Dallas was so far away and they were growing up so quickly.
Feeling completely torn, after almost five years of bliss, she had never felt so frustrated by the man she loved with all her heart! Why was he being so obstinate? They really could not afford the house after they retired. For the first time this evening, he admitted he was, also, concerned about finances. Stubborn pride made him re-mortgage after his divorce. Although their relationship had improved somewhat, his daughter remained aloof to him.
As she lay there, she realized it had come down to her son versus his daughter. This was going to destroy their relationship (and might lead to divorce) if some middle ground wasn’t found. Ideas whirled in her head. There were so many options they had never considered. She almost woke him to remind him how much she loved him and, together, they would figure this out.
1. Changing the Retirement Discussion
We are all imperfect and can easily “get stuck” on an issue. The current communication pattern between Rosie and Matt prevents them from resolving their situation. She misses her son and grandchildren and wants to share more time with them. It is an emotional issue for her so it could appear she is attempting to impose her will upon Matt. After several such go rounds, it is understandable why Matt would do his best to avoid any more conflict. However, when she does bring up the matter, he immediately becomes defensive which creates further strain on their relationship causing more marriage problems.
A different approach is required if there is ever to be any resolution. You cannot change the other person so you have to change your methods. All it takes is for one of them to change how they communicate and there is a chance the other will respond in a more favorable way. Whatever the issue, as a couple, it is imperative to understand and be supportive of each other’s perspective. There is no right or wrong, only differing opinions. In many situations, the “issue” fades away with open discussion which paves the way to finding a fair compromise.
He pleasantly surprised her the following morning asking if they could talk on the weekend.
Matt began, “Rosie I’m afraid I’ll lose my daughter forever if we move”. On the tip of her tongue, she almost retorted that she was losing her son and grandchildren. However, the pain radiating out of his eyes stopped her and instead she simply reached for his hand. They talked late into the evening and the following day. They agreed it was about them and their happiness in retirement. Matt agreed they would downsize, but only after some renovations were completed to maximize the property value. Before any decisions were made, they would have discussions with his daughter and her son. In both situations, they wanted to include family in their lives.
2. Factors to Consider Before Deciding Where to Live in Retirement
Deciding where you are going to live once you are retired is fraught with risk. Stories abound of couples who became miserable after relocating to their so-called "retirement haven". They rushed into their perfect place only to realize they couldn’t stand the climate (Florida summers are hot), didn’t like their neighbors, or boredom set in with nothing interesting to do. These can be expensive decisions to undo and start over. There are a multitude of considerations that should be factored into your decisions before they are finalized.
Most of us have limited finances and cannot afford to make the wrong decision. If you are contemplating a major move out of state or even out of country, it may be wise to rent first rather than purchasing right away.
For example, a retired couple purchased a small home in South Carolina and renovated it just the way they wanted. It was in a sleepy little town. Unfortunately, they found the locals stuck together. They were “outsiders” so there was little opportunity to make new friends. Even worse, they were used to going out to cultural and music events. Simply, there was nothing for them to do. After trying to make a go of it for a year, they ended up selling it at a loss. In addition, they incurred more moving costs as well as real estate and legal fees. The experience cost them tens of thousands of dollars they could ill afford to lose.
Family and Friends
The old adage “distance makes the heart grow fonder” is completely false when it comes to friends and family. Living nearby makes it much easier to visit and share good times. Friendships take effort and tend to fade when people move away.
In this day and age, it is common for families to be scattered across the country. Adult children and their families are typically caught up with work, school, and numerous other activities. You might plan a visit only to find everyone too busy to spend much time together.
Relieve flooded through Matt. After several heart-to-heart talks with his daughter, unresolved feelings were finally put to rest. Ruefully, he admitted to himself these discussions should have happened long ago. She understood his dilemma and fully supported any decision made on where to live in retirement. If they chose to relocate, she offered them her spare bedroom for visits. They were welcome to stay with her for a week or two. Additionally, this would give them an opportunity to catch up with friends.
Rosie’s son was equally supportive. However, he suggested holidays or summer months were better to visit as the kids were so active in school and sports. With that resolved, Rosie and Matt could delve deeper into their options.
One of the most common challenges is what to do in retirement. Everyday becomes like a weekend and now you have 40 plus free hours each week to fill. When considering where you will settle down , will your new place / location fulfill your interests? For instance, a retirement community may have many daily activities such as playing pickle ball, scrabble games, and what not. That might be great for some retirees, but your passion might be golf. Maybe woodworking is more your thing and you will require a well stocked shop.
Work / Volunteer Opportunities
A growing trend is for retirees to work part-time or volunteer. Primarily, this is to do something useful and have social interaction. For some, the extra pay is their “fun” money to do more of the things they enjoy. For others, it supplements their income. Thus, if you retire near a city, there will likely be many more opportunities than in a rural location.
Whether it be loading up the car or taking a flight to some exotic destination, do you want to travel? Can someone keep an eye on your residence? Your home insurance usually stipulates that someone needs to check on things at least every several days. In fact, if you will be away for extended periods it may be advantageous to have a house sitter.
Your lifestyle will also influence where you will live. Attending cultural events, theater, and dining out might be important to you. So living in a rural setting would not be ideal for you. Likewise, if you are a huge Celtic fan with season tickets, you’d probably be unhappy anywhere else than Boston. Then there’s your geographic preferences:
- By an ocean taking beach walks.
- Near a mountainous area and hiking trails.
- Enjoying four seasons or year-round warmth.
3. Retire In-Place
Depending upon your situation, there may be very good reasons to stay put. You may be happy where you are, the numbers work, and there is no compelling reason to live elsewhere. On the other hand, retirement is the opportunity to begin afresh. Some couples desire a warmer climate, more of a retirement community, or better access to amenities. It becomes a personal choice for each of us and this is the first hurdle many couples have to overcome to retirement happiness.
if you stay in place, the second piece of the puzzle will be how long will you live there. Home ownership comes with a lot of upkeep and expenses that will become more difficult to handle as the years slide by. Even mowing the lawn or traversing stairs will become daunting if mobility issues arise. If a medical issue strikes, everything can change rapidly, possibly, forcing relocation into a care facility.
Over the years, most of us accumulate stuff and it can become daunting to decide what and how to get rid of them. It’s painful at times to sell prized possessions for a fraction of what you initially paid. Then there are all the sentimental things we can’t bear to part with. All too often, those who retire in place have homes packed full. They may even have sheds that are equally full. Eventually, you or someone will have to deal with all these possessions.
Realistically, Matt figured they could have the house spruced up and ready to list by the spring. Sometimes Rosie joked that he owned more tools than “Tim the Toolman”. The reality was that after almost twenty years, he had to admit he had acquired an awful lot of stuff. What to sell (or give away) and what to keep?
Her pride and joy were her grandparents dining table and hutch. They were massively heavy units constructed out of solid black walnut. His back already ached thinking of the nightmare they would be to move.
5. Retire in the Same Area
If you prefer the city / region you live in, there are likely lots of options just around the corner. Although downsizing sounds like you are losing something (unused space and clutter), often you gain a residence that better suits you, your new lifestyle and is more manageable. It might be a smaller house, a townhouse, or a condo. Hopefully, it is in a convenient location that better caters to your present and future needs. This might include having closer access to medical facilities, public transport, or being within walking distance to shops and services.
Bubbling with excitement, Matt couldn’t wait to show her the new adult only complex. It was still in the building phase and only 20 minutes away. By placing a deposit, they would be able to pick exactly the features they wanted. The hardwood flooring would be the way to go, he mused. The open space concept with over 1300 square feet was perfect for them. Even better, it was affordable and they would finally be out of debt.
Although the show home was beautiful, Rosie had mixed feelings. Matt was absolutely enthralled and ready to put down their deposit. Her nagging fear was is this the best decision. She really wanted to be closer to her grandchildren and there might even be better places in Texas.
6. Retirement Communities
They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are connected with colleges to promote life long learning. Others may focus on golf and other activities. There may be options to upgrade into assisted living or nursing home care. These might be a great option for you, especially if your health is in decline. This is where you need to do your homework as no two are the same.
Never in her wildest dreams did Rosie think that choosing where to live in retirement could be so bewildering. Everywhere she looked there seemed to be an advertisement for a retirement community. They all promoted glowing images of how wonderful retired life was at their facilities and the varying levels of care available. The more she read, the better they sounded.
At least until she dug deeper and started to read reviews from real people. Now they started to sound rather expensive and not always delivering on their promises. One review in particular revealed how miserable and frustrated one couple had become. They spent their entire life savings to purchase their unit. Everything was going great until someone new moved in below them. The tenant was a smoker and they had all but given up using their balcony. The communal lawn area was littered with trash and no one even bothered to scoop up their dogs’ “nuggets”. Management was lax not enforcing any rules and absolutely nothing ran smoothly. She was quite certain this was not for her and Matt. At least, not for another ten or so years and only if they began to have health issues and required care.
7. Retiring Further Away
States such as Florida and Texas are often touted as meccas for retirees. And no wonder, with year-round warm weather and a relatively low cost of living. Additionally, these states do not tax pensionable or social security earnings.
After some research, Rosie excitedly identified several smaller Texas cities not too far from Dallas. Property values were substantially lower and there appeared to be numerous areas catering to retirees. The slower pace of live and proximity of cultural events appealed to her. Matt was leery of such a drastic move and kept talking about those beautiful hardwood floors. Although, it did appeal to him leaving their miserable winters behind.
They were planning to visit her son next month. It was an ideal opportunity to see more of Texas. They would take an extra week to look around and Rosie eagerly planned their trip.
If you have ever been in Florida during a hot summer, you can appreciate why snowbirds don’t stick around. In many senses, they have the best of both worlds - staying home when it is nice and relocating when it gets colder. Unfortunately, everything costs money especially if two residences need to be maintained. When feasible, a more creative approach might be to rent out your home while you are away.
The smile never left Rosie’s face the entire visit. Her son unexpectedly took time off work to help them explore their retirement options. There was so much to see and Texas was so big. As much as Matt enjoyed it, he shriveled in the intense heat. Every day was stinking hot! That evening prompted a whole new discussion (for more detail, see Retirement for Couples). What were the rental options during the winter months? Property values were low and surely, they could find something reasonable.
9. Retiring to a Different Country
Relocating to another country is not for the faint of heart. You may have read / heard that you can live comfortably on social security in some other countries. Tropical paradises such as Panama, Costa Rica, Belize, or even Asia are often bandied about. Idyllically, strolling along a sandy beach each evening sounds pretty good. An added bonus is that health care is a fraction of the cost.
While these are great places for a vacation, not everyone will enjoy retiring in these countries. Family and friends are far away and airfare can be expensive. The culture and lifestyle are dramatically different. You’re not going to find Starbucks or most of the amenities you are accustomed to back home. More so than any other option, you should consider living there for at least six months, test the waters, before investing in anything.
In conclusion, there are almost countless options on where to live in retirement. More than anything, it comes down to affordability and lifestyle preferences for each of us. Circumstances such as health issues may further necessitate change of residence further down the road. Consideration needs to be given to all the factors listed above. Definitely, open communication will help to make the decision easier. Your choice about your retirement location should be agreed upon together.