You've worked your fingers to the bone for 40 years or more, and now the time has finally come to retire. But where do you plan to live out your glorious retirement years?
Do you picture yourself settling down in a cozy mountain cottage or kicking back in a small, low-maintenance condo on a sun-drenched beach? Do you envision moving into a fun-filled retirement community or does the thought of playing endless hours of Bunco with gossiping neighbors send shivers down your spine? (If your retirement plan hasn't worked out, at least your children can learn from your mistakes. Learn more in Retirement Lessons To Teach Your Children.)
There are many factors to consider as you make this difficult decision. Here are five things you should keep in mind when choosing a retirement location:
1. Cost of Living
Ever since you took that fabulous vacation to Geneva, you've envisioned living out your retirement years there, taking in the magnificent culture and breathtaking views of the Alps. Unfortunately, this may be about as realistic as retiring to the moon. Why? Because Geneva is the fourth most expensive city in the world, based on 2009 research from Mercer Consulting.
Before you settle on a particular retirement destination, be sure to conduct some cost of living research. Unless you are rolling in dough, cost should be your #1 consideration, when it comes to choosing the ideal retirement spot. Figure out where you can realistically afford to live, and then move forward from there.
2. Healthcare Concerns
Let's say you have a few problems with the old ticker. If that's the case, you probably shouldn't retire to a log cabin at the summit of a mountain, 45 long winding miles from the nearest hospital. You'd be better off choosing a home that's just a few miles away from a hospital with a renowned cardiac unit.
You should also consider the cost and quality of healthcare in various locations. If you're already stretched thin financially, it wouldn't be wise to retire to a state with phenomenally high healthcare expenses. This could quickly eat away at your nest egg. Do your homework and find the cities and states that offer top-notch, yet affordable, healthcare. (Learn some handy tips to cut the cost of hospital bills in 20 Ways To Save On Medical Bills.)
Obviously, if you abhor snow and bone-chilling temperatures, you probably shouldn't retire to the Great White North or the blustery mountains of Colorado. By the same token, if you despise sweltering, steamy heat, South Florida isn't the place for you.
Of course, you can't be sure if you can handle the scorching heat or the freezing cold in a particular area until you actually experience it first-hand. You can pore through as many temperature average graphs and charts you want, but you won't truly understand what 98 degrees and 95% humidity feels like until you live through it.
That's why you should visit your dream town during its most severe weather season. For example, if you're planning to retire to Phoenix, Arizona, stop by in July, when the average high temperature is a blistering 107 degrees. If you're considering moving to Mackinac Island, Michigan, pay a visit in February, when the average low is 12 degrees and the area is blanketed in snow. (Rather than shivering away their golden years, retirees can fly south to winter in sunny locales. Find out more in In Retirement, Snowbirds Leave Cold Weather Behind.)
Do you have dreams of moving closer to your children and grandchildren post-retirement? You may want to weigh the pros and cons before you make this move. Consider this: if you live just up the street from your kids and grandkids, they could become overly dependent on you for babysitting duties. While you may enjoy spending time with your grandkids, do you really want to spend your retirement days changing soiled diapers and wiping runny noses? Probably not; after all, you've already paid your parenting dues. (If you are a caregiver, get to know the rules for claiming a dependent before filing your taxes in How To Claim A Dependent.)
5. Your Definition of Paradise
Are you considering retiring to an active resort-style paradise? If so, you may want to test the waters before you dive head first. Many retirees quickly tire of these resort-like settings, which are often bursting with senior scandals, gossiping grannies and countless hours of forced "fun" activities. If you're a social butterfly, this type of community may sound like a dream come true. On the other hand, if you're a guarded introvert, you may grow annoyed with the incessant retiree drama.
Excessive planning is often needed in order to meet retiremtent goals. Be sure to do your homework and test the waters before making a decision that will play a part in the rest of your life.