How to Pick the Best Place to Retire
By Jim Miller
If you’re interested in relocating when you retire, like millions of other baby boomers, there are a wide variety of books and online resources that can help you find and research a new location that meet your wants, needs and budget. Here are several to help you get started.
Where to Retire?
If you’re at the beginning of your search, a good starting point is to take the “Find Your Best Place” retirement quiz at Sperling’s Best Places (BestPlaces.net/fybp). This free quiz asks 10 questions on your preferences such as climate, recreation, community size and more, and suggests possible destinations that match your answers. MarketWatch also has a new matchmaking tool called, “Where’s the best place for me to retire?” at MarketWatch.com/graphics/best-place-to-retire/.
Media resources like U.S. News & World Report, Kiplinger’s, Forbes and Money Magazine also publish “best places to retire” lists on their websites each year. And be sure you check out Milken’s “Best Cities for Successful Aging” (SuccessfulAging.MilkenInstitute.org), which ranks 381 U.S. metropolitan areas based on factors that are important to older adults.
You should also consider getting a copy of “America’s 100 Best Places to Retire” (the sixth edition book; $25 at Amazon.com) that looks at a range of destinations, and groups some in categories like best college towns, mountain towns, undiscovered towns and main street towns.
Once you find a few areas that interest you, your next step is research them. Here are some important areas you need to investigate.
• Cost of living: Can you afford to live comfortably in the location where you want to retire? Numbeo.com and BestPlaces.net offers tools to compare the cost of living from your current location to where you would like to move. They compare housing costs, food, utilities, transportation and more.
• Taxes: Some states are more tax friendly than others. If you’re planning to move to another state, Kiplinger’s has a tax guide for retirees at Kiplinger.com/links/retireetaxmap that lets you find and compare taxes state-by-state. It covers income taxes, sales tax, taxes on retirement income, Social Security benefits taxes, property taxes, and inheritance and estate taxes.
• Crime rate: To evaluate how safe a community or area is, websites like AreaVibes.com provide crime data for certain localities.
• Climate: To research the climate in the areas you’re interested in moving, Sperling’s Best Places is again a great resource that offers a climate/weather compare tool BestPlaces.net/climate.
• Healthcare: Does the area you want to relocate have easy access to good healthcare? To locate and research doctors and hospitals in a new area, use Medicare’s compare tool at Medicare.gov/care-compare. Also see Healthgrades.com, which provides detailed information on U.S. hospitals and doctors.
• Transportation: If you plan to travel much, or expect frequent visits from your kids or grandkids, convenient access to an airport or train station is a nice advantage. You should also investigate alternative transportation options, since most retirees give up driving in their eighties. To do this visitRidesInSight.org, a free website that provides information about senior transportation options in local communities throughout the U.S.
Once you have narrowed your choices down to two or three, spend a couple weeks in each location at different times of the year so you can get a feel for the seasonal weather changes, and so you can carefully weigh the pros and cons of living there. You may find that you like the area more as a vacation spot than as a year-round residence. It’s also a good idea to rent for a year before buying a home or making a commitment to a retirement community.