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City, Beach, or Mountains: Where Do You Want to Live in Retirement?

When you retire, the world becomes your oyster. You’re no longer tied to a city or suburb due to work or school commitments, which means you can live wherever you want. Indeed, many retirees decide to pack up and move to greener pastures. 

For this reason, deciding where you want to live should be an important piece of your retirement plan. Here’s how to find your ideal home base.

Where Will You Live in Retirement: Assess Your Priorities 

Deciding where to retire is a personal decision based on many factors. It could be you want to be closer to nature. Others prefer to have the hustle and bustle of a city around them. Or, you could be one of millions of Americans who want to retire abroad.

To decide what’s right for you (and your partner, if you have one) start by assessing your priorities. What’s most important to you when it comes to things like:

  • Climate
  • Cost 
  • Activities 
  • Health care
  • Community

There are other questions to consider, too. Ask yourself why you want to move in the first place? What kind of housing will you seek, and are you prepared to sell your current home? Getting clear on what matters most will help you determine the best place for you to retire to. 

Take a Closer Look at Your Top Choices

Once you have a shortlist of potential retirement destinations, take time to evaluate some of the most important factors. 

How Much Tax Will You Pay 

Taxes are a major consideration for many retirees. Where you live can affect what you owe in taxes, which makes a big difference when you’re living on a fixed income. Consider the tax environment as it relates to: 

  • State income tax - Currently, there are only seven U.S. states which do not tax personal income: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming.
  • Taxes on retirement benefits - Each state has different rules on how retirement income is taxed. Where you decide to retire could have tax implications related to pensions, Social Security benefits, and required minimum distributions
  • Taxes on investment income - For example, New Hampshire and Tennessee impose taxes on investment and interest income, but not on earned wages. 

Consider Cost of Living

Taxes aren’t the only factor that affects how far your retirement savings will go. Calculate basic living expenses such as housing costs, insurance, grocery bills, utilities, and gas prices. But also consider leisure activities. How often do you plan to eat out at restaurants or attend cultural events? Will you be paying for season ski passes, gym memberships or sports tickets? Comparing the costs of specific businesses you might frequent will help you avoid surprises and make the most of your retirement savings portfolio.

Use an online calculator to compare the cost of living among U.S. cities. Numbeo is another excellent resource for assessing costs, quality of life, crime, and more.

Evaluate Health Care Options

While a life off the grid may sound peaceful, you don’t want to find yourself too far removed from good hospital facilities. Learn about your options for health care in your target destination, including specialists and long term care facilities. The USA.gov site can help you locate doctors and medical facilities across the country. 

Also, think about Medicare. Find out how many doctors and hospitals in the area accept Medicare patients. Some Medicare premiums can vary from state to state, so you’ll need to consider how your Medicare option will affect your out-of-pocket costs in retirement.

Unfortunately, you never know when a health emergency could arise—and your health is too important to leave things to chance. 

Factor in Your Lifestyle Priorities

Non-financial factors will also play into where you decide to live in retirement. Consider a place’s quality of life when it comes to things like climate, walkability, culture, and more. For example: 

  • If you’re an avid traveler, you’ll want access to an international airport
  • You may wish to be in close proximity to family members and friends
  • For some, cold-weather destinations are out of the question
  • Research amenities for seniors, as well as access to sports clubs, theaters, concerts, and community centers
  • Consider the overall vibe you want from a city - liberal vs conservative, younger vs older, ethnic diversity, size, etc. 
  • You may have specific preferences like access to a body of water or being near a professional sports team

Get clear on your priorities for retirement (retirement mapping can help) so you can land in a spot that has everything you’re looking for.

Do a Test Run Before Making the Leap

Researching and plotting your dreams on paper is great. But there’s nothing like first-hand experience to help you really feel out a potential new nest. Before you sell your home and pack up your entire life, do a test run. Renting a furnished apartment or an Airbnb for a few months is a great way to experience a city beyond being a tourist. 

Explore different neighborhoods. Ask the locals for recommendations. Dip your toes into the local community classes. If possible, visit in all seasons so you can see the varied pace of life. If many places appeal to you, taking a trip to each can help narrow down your list. 

Do you want more tips for building your dream life in retirement? The keys to aging well, feeling free, and enjoying your retirement to the fullest? Pre-order your copy of Retirement Secrets today!

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