The 10 Most Frequently Asked Questions at Topretirements

Category: General Retirement Issues

March 12, 2013 — As you might expect, we get a lot of retirement questions from our members and site visitors. The same applies when new friends of your editor find out about Topretirements. This article recaps the most frequent questions we receive, along with our usual answers. We hope you find it helpful.

Frequent Questions
1. What is the Best Place to Retire. This is by far the most prevalent question, so much so that it completely overwhelms any others we get. Since we get the question so often we have developed a stock response, one that we hope is helpful. So when people ask, “where is the best place to retire”, here is how we typically respond: “Retirement is a very personal matter. The best place for us might very well be a terrible retirement destination for you. To make the best decision for you, you need to first answer a number of questions.” (And then we tell them some of the questions).

If the questioner is a visitor to Topretirements.com we always recommend that we download our Free eBook, “Baby Boomer’s Guide to Selecting a Retirement Community“, because it has a handy questionnaire on 16 factors (plus checklist for each) that will help anyone get a better understanding of their personal retirement priorities. Some of those factors have to do with required winter temperatures, financial issues,preferred distance from family and friends, type of lifestyle you desire, small vs. big town, etc. You should also take our free Retirement Ranger, our online quiz that asks 9 quick questions and then provides an instant report of towns that might be suitable based on your input.

There are of course some towns that many people agree are great for retirement. The most popular towns for retirement among Topretirements visitors include Asheville, NC; Sarasota, FL; Austin, TX; Venice, FL; Beaufort, SC; San Diego, CA; and Prescott, Arizona. For a full list see our “100 Best Retirement Towns – 2013“.

2. What is the best place to retire abroad. Many Americans immediately tend to link south when they consider retiring abroad, with destinations in countries like Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, and Ecuador. If lack of money is an important reason for retiring abroad, Latin America might well be a good choice. But (and a very big but), we recommend that you not retire abroad if your finances are the primary motivator. Living in a foreign country has many disadvantages and challenges – it is not for everyone. You can see some of the reasons why at “Mexican Retirement Gone Bad” in our Blog.

In our opinion, however, there are some more appealing countries which ought to be considered. A friend recently asked your editor about some of the places where we would live if we retired abroad, and the answers were: Western Ireland, the South of France, Italy. In Ireland we can speak the language; the food, culture, and lifestyle are superb in the latter two. On the negative side, however, retiring in those places might be both expensive and difficult from a visa viewpoint.

3. Can you advise me where I should retire. Sorry, we can’t provide personal assistance – we just do not have the resources to do that. But that doesn’t mean we can’t provide a ton of free assistance on this site. Use the Best Places link to find towns and active communities that might appeal to you. Subscribe to our newsletter and Blog posts to get ideas about a whole range of retirement issues. Pose a question or make a comment in either our Blog or in the Forum – it is amazing how this community responds with helpful information on their experiences and opinions.

4. What are the best places for low retirement taxes. You are not alone if you are looking for a place to retire with low taxes. The good news is there are many states that have the “low taxes” welcome wagon sign out for retirees. On the other hand, taxes are complicated and personal, a one-size solution does not fit everyone. There are different kinds of taxes, and depending on your personal situation, the obvious choices might not apply (for example if you are living on a reduced income, income and sales taxes don’t matter much – but property taxes probably do). See our article, “Tax Friendly States for Retirement” for more detailed help.

5. Can you tell me where to find rentals – I either don’t want to buy or I just want to rent for a while. There is no totally easy answer to this question – you are going to have to do some work to get answers. But the good news is that there are rentals available – if you spend the time researching and asking realtors, developments, and friends for leads. You can use Advanced Search at Topretirement.com to screen for “rentals” under “Types of Communities”. Go online at sites like VRBO.com to find more ideas. Searching in Google with queries that make sense – e.g.; “rental apartment in Myrtle Beach” will usually also produce some rental ideas.


6. How can I find a list of active communities that have (specific amenities or characteristics). This is one of our favorite questions, because it means people are thinking about their retirements and trying to find out where they might find a good fit. There are thousands and thousands of active adult, 55+, and retirement communities of all types. We have capsule reviews of over 2100 on this site, which is a good start. You can use our Advanced Search to narrow down the search by exactly the criteria that interest you. With this feature you can search on both cities and 55+ communities. Select the criteria that interest you, including geographic area and other selects, and you will get a list of the places with the amenities you are looking for – whether those be golf courses, equestrian facilities, marinas, etc.

7. Where can I find a list of affordable communities. There are several possible routes to find out about places to retire that won’t break your budget – an important concern for millions of baby boomers. One place to start is to go to our Advanced Search – there you will see a select that allows to choose only “budget” communities (plus other selections like state, amenity, etc.). You can also choose manufactured home communities, which are almost always a less expensive option. Stay away from expensive states in the Northeast and California, including both coasts. Florida and the Southeast tend to be inexpensive. See also our Blog article: “20 Great Affordable Places to Retire” (the bottom of that article has links to more “affordable” articles).

8. Where can we find a place that does NOT offer golf. The world sometimes seems split into two camps – love golf or don’t care for golf. Certainly if you don’t like golf or have no intention to play it, you probably don’t want to be paying Home Owner Association dues to support a golf course. Fortunately for these folks, there are more communities without golf facilities than with. Many large developers are forgoing golf courses in most of their new communities, and that seems to include Pulte/Del Webb. If you want golf, use the “Golf” amenity screen in Advanced Search. If you are not interested, look at the list of amenities in all of the community reviews on this site and ignore those that offer it (use http://www.topretirements.com/reviews/ or the orange “Find a Community” box at top right of all pages). See “Dream of Golf Course Living Turns into a Nightmare” for more on this subject.

9. Where are some good communities for singles. There is a very significant part of the retired population that is single, and these folks don’t want to feel like third wheels. In general we believe that larger communities might be better options for singles. That’s because they are large enough to have singles clubs or organizations, or at least a critical mass of other singles to hang with. But many smaller communities might be great, fun places where singles interact with other people and do not feel marginalized. The best way to find out is to visit a lot of different communities and see for yourself. Talk with people and participate in activities – you will get a good idea firsthand. See “Best Retirement Places for Singles” in our Blog. The author and our frequent contributor, Jan Cullinane, has written several helpful retirement books including the AARP’s “Single Women’s Guide to Retirement“, which is definitely a good place to start.

10. I am thinking about retiring in (name of town or community). Please tell me all about it. This question is a personal pet peeve for us. Fortunately many of our more members take the time to give a helpful answer, usually because they know the town or development well and want to be helpful. We are grateful for their generosity. Our recommendation if you come to this site is to look around first. Look in the city reviews to find out basic information. Then look in the Forum and some of the Blog posts where there might have been a discussion about the town. And then ask your question, making it as specific as possible. We find people are much more willing to answer a query that has some focus to it, rather than one which is simply – tell me everything you know about….

More questions – and comments
These are just the top 10 questions we get – there are many more that come in during the course of a month. Check out more, including our answers, in our Forum FAQ post . Best of all, if you have answers to these questions, we would all love to hear them. No one has a monopoly on retirement experience, we can learn so much from each other. Please share with your fellow members in the Comments section below.

Posted by Admin on March 13th, 2013

21 Comments »

  1. For #10 it’s hard to beat city-data.com as a source of information. It covers a lot of territory and gives personal perspectives from people who live, or have lived, in places you may find interesting. If ever there was a ‘one stop shop’ for such info, that’s it.

    by David Hamilton — March 13, 2013

  2. 1. The best place to retire is the one that matches all your top three or four requirements and most of your secondary requirements. It seems silly to have to say that, but some retiree couples I work with don’t take the time to make sure they agree on the top requirements. That may doom them to an unsuccessful and contentious search. 2. Having never lived abroad — except for, perhaps, the week I once spent in Texas — I have no expertise on the subject. 3. Seriously? Advising a person on where to retire is like buying them a dress or pair of shoes; it may be a bargain but chances are it won’t fit. 4. Ahh, my favorite, the tax question. If no-income-tax and otherwise low-overall-tax states are so great, how come EVERYONE doesn’t live there. Taxes are meaningless on their own; overall cost of living is what matters, and frankly there are some great towns in the Carolinas (income tax states) that are cheaper to live in than some towns in Florida (no income tax). The TopRetirements editor has it right; it comes down to each couple’s personal situation. 5. Renting before you buy can be a great idea; you get to learn the community, your neighbors, traffic patterns, the quality of local restaurants, etc. But as prices rebound in leisure residential communities, some owners who rented their homes will probably start selling them. Choice rentals at reasonable prices may start to dry up. 8. Rumors of the death of golf as an amenity may be greatly exaggerated. Traditionally, properties in a community with a quality golf club held their values better than those without golf. Many non-golfers still like the more attractive landscaping that golf communities offer. And we still have a few million baby boomer golfers in the U.S., so the demand for golf as an amenity should not change as dramatically as some suggest.

    by Larry — March 13, 2013

  3. Larry: Well said thank you for the great food for thought.

    by RUBYTUESDAY — March 14, 2013

  4. in number 4: change each “couple’s to each “individual’s” and I agree. not everyone retiring is part of a couple and even couples may need to consider each other (as individuals) and perhaps other family or other dependents. We are all individuals and are still individuals whether gay, heterosexual, hispanic, white, gofers, skiers, etc. you sound like a politician with couples being the folks who vote.

    by eric — March 14, 2013

  5. Does anyone know anything about ‘old town Huntsville’? I have seen photos of some of the homes in that area that have been restored and they are so beautiful. The smaller ones would be appropriate for me as I’m now a widow. My sons leave near by in Hampton Cove but I prefer the look of the homes in Old Town. So much character! But I’ve yet find any info on living in that area, as in,is it too congested, to close to the center of Huntsville, crime rate etc.
    Hope someone can give me a few answers or suggestions.
    thanks

    by Anne — March 14, 2013

  6. Eric, Bravo!! It is frustrating to me that most retirement websites present data as if it is for couples only, and there is very little info for singles. I also have noticed in my visits to communities that they are often geared to couples. You and I can’t be the only single seniors! Wish there was more out there on this topic.

    by Ginger — March 15, 2013

  7. Here, here on the singles out there. I am one. Here is a statistic from the US Census Bureau…
    17 million Number of unmarried U.S. residents 65 and older in 2011. These seniors comprised 16 percent of all unmarried people 18 and older.

    I think you might find that the target of developers has been couples because overall they probably have or have had the highest discretionary income and assets. Just a guess. But singles are marginalized in many areas and until businesses believe their is profit to be had this will continue.

    Also, remember that generationally this outlook is changing but I’m guessing that the generation that retired 20 years ago didn’t look like the up and coming retirees either. And their comfort level with being single was likely not as high.

    OK. Hope those comments aren’t too controversial. But I am one who has been looking for more ‘singles’ welcome options too!

    by Mejask — March 15, 2013

  8. actually, I was really thinking about a parent or parents who have a child that will be dependent for their entire lives. more complicated than just finding a place to retire. and no, I do not have this situation, just know others who do. the one thing that is safe is to assume that we are all individuals.

    by eric — March 15, 2013

  9. oops link
    http://www.meetup.com

    by eric — March 16, 2013

  10. Appreciate the comments on sigles retirement. Any ideas or suggestions for retirement in Phoenix area or Las Vegas/Henderson (Nevada)? Would welcome your opinions.

    by Tami — March 16, 2013

  11. To Eric and Mejask,
    I’m with you . Altho I wrote asking about housing in Huntsville because my sons live nearby I’ve been a widow for over a year so in the same boat as you guys. As much as I’d like to be near my sons, we do have a good relationship, Al. is not the place I would normally pick. I’m sure it’s a lovely place to live but the climate doesn’t do anything for me.
    I have been trying to make a decision now for close to a year and can’t come up with anything. Same as you’ve both said. Everything seems to be based on the wants of a couple.
    I checked out places like Taos and Santa Fe and altho they are beautiful spots in my estimation the tax structure seems high. Have either of you found anything that looks at all promising?

    by Anne — March 16, 2013

  12. Anne
    Your question is very difficult to answer since everything is personal. As this site often suggests I would pick the top 5 to 10 things important to you and maybe prioritize them. Then look for a few areas that meet your criteria the best. After that you really have to dig and visit to see how it appeals to you.

    Unfortunately some of this is like looking for a job. It takes time and certainly on site visits to come to a conclusion. If you have the ability it is best, after you have a few places in mind, to visit for an extended stay. These are some reasons why many people find themselves staying put.

    I will tell you that the articles in the media that suggest ‘best places for singles’ certainly are not geared toward retirees. Also, many of these places tend to be more expensive.

    I have places I favor for a variety of personal reasons. I haven’t found any retirement community that is particularly appealing for singles. Maybe we should encourage some developer! Good luck.

    by Mejask — March 17, 2013

  13. Anne, Tami, Ginger, and any other interested single women:

    Here are six (of many) specific examples recommended by single women from my book, AARP’s The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement (anecdotes are provided by real women addressing where – and why – they chose to live in a particular location):
    1. Del Webb Orlando
    2. NorthWest Crossing (Bend, Oregon)
    3. Daniel Island (near Charleston, SC)
    4. Wolf Creek Lodge (a cohousing community in California)
    5. City of Denver, Colorado
    6. Small town living in St. Marys, Georgia

    Jan Cullinane, author, AARP’s The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement (John Wiley & Sons)

    by Jan Cullinane — March 17, 2013

  14. Thanks Jan, but I should have shared more. I’m afraid I have a double-jinx. I’m single and poor. I am one of those (many) people who was defrauded of a large part of my retirement by an investment scam (IFFL: Milow Brost and Gary Sorenson). I lost about 250K in that deal, lost more when the housing collapse happened and my three properties went upside down, lost more in the stock market crash. I lost 500K in about 2 years. I have a tiny IRA left, and I will have social security in august, and I will probably try to continue working part-time, but that’s about it. Due to all my losses I had to file bankruptcy in 2010, so I have no money AND no credit. I also have some chronic health problems; not life threatening but expensive. Good thing I am an optimist! I am looking for something REALLY inexpensive, like a mobile home park, in a state with low taxes and good weather (that means not colder than 30s, preferably). I live in upstate NY right now, so you can see I am in the wrong place. I would also prefer to be near a good-sized city, and I would prefer to have a neighborhood where I can walk to shops (grocery, pharmacy, etc). I cannot afford Del Webb communities. I need to be able to buy something for 25K or less, have monthly rent for the space under $400 if possible. So far, my search has led me primarily to Arizona and Florida. I also haves considered eastern part of southern california. I have just started to consider other parts of the south, like the Carolinas, but I am not crazy about the humidity at all. Texas is out; I grew up in Oklahoma and Texas and will never go back to that part of the world. As I am looking for my spot I have some considerations that don’t get mentioned here a lot….I do not want to live in the bible-belt. I just do not want or need to be surrounded by people who want to proselytize constantly. I want to meet people who are interested in art, ideas, language, politics. I want to be active and involved in my community, and to do that I need to be in a community that appeals to me. I am non-violent; I do not want to live someplace where everyone thinks weapons and war are the solution to issues. I want to be someplace that has grocery stores that carry healthy, organic foods. I want to be a member of a gym that offers yoga and pilates. I do not want to shop at Walmart. I would prefer to be in a place that has a college or university. I am poor, but the quality of my life is important to me. For all these reasons I have been strongly considering Tucson. On the downside, Tucson is a long way from family and friends. I have lived in the Pacific Northwest, and don’t really care for all the dampness, but that is another area I would consider. I’m hoping some of you can tell me the perfect place. And, I would prefer a place with less natural disasters…no sinkholes, no hurricanes, no tornadoes. I know, I know….this is crazy talk. But I’m still hopeful!

    by Ginger — March 17, 2013

  15. to Ginger – WOW.

    You need to live where I live – OUTTER SPACE!

    by Robert — March 18, 2013

  16. Back to point #2, where to retire abroad. The Wall St. Journal has an article about a couple who just retired to Ireland. For anyone considering this sort of retirement, you might find this valuable. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324156204578274052770697428.html

    by Admin — March 18, 2013

  17. Ginger – We continue to consider NW (WA, OR, ID, even N. California). Have you checked Port Angeles-Sequim-Port Townsend area of WA? They supposedly benefit from “shadow effect” of Olympic Mtns. What about Spokane area … much drier, with great hiking/biking in area and east into ID.

    by Mad Monk — March 18, 2013

  18. Mad Monk…thanks for your suggestions. I have looked at Sequim, and I have also heard that Blaine, near Bellingham, has warmer weather. I think the winter’s in Spokane are a little harsh for me; I really don’t care much for snow.

    Robert…tell me how you do that and I might try it!

    Admin: we are discussing where to retire. Sorry if you don’t like how I am discussing it.

    As for Abroad: Costa Rica is beautiful and there are some lovely communities near San JOse that have a lot of ex-pats. The weather there is virtually perfect. However, the cost is going up and it is getting pricier. I also found many of the smaller villages along the Riviera in France to have reasonable properties; however, at that time I still had some money. Out of my price range now. I had considered Mexico, but the violence there is so bad now that I’m not sure that would work for me.

    by Ginger — March 18, 2013

  19. Hi Ginger, I am looking for the same place, so if you find it let us know! I currently live in NE Arizona, in the White Mountains near Show Low. It is very nice here in the fall, summers are stormy, spring in windy, and winter is cold. The only college is a community college. I would suggest you check out central Arizona (Prescott, Prescott Valley, Chino Valley, Cottonwood and Camp Verde.) It is not as hot as Phoenix or as cold as Flagstaff, and located between the two cities. Fortunately, even though it gets really hot in most of Arizona, we don’t have much in the way of earthquakes, tornadoes, or hurricanes. Not too humid either.

    by Theresa — March 18, 2013

  20. LOL, Ginger, you aren’t asking for much. I grew up in New Paltz, NY and know it very well, but my alleries and asthma were not “bad” until I moved away. So, it is what it is. I have lived in Las Vegas, too dry; Menifee-wonderful,Brooklyn, Westchester County (both Peekskill AND Hastings On Hudson and now am in Texas. I have lived in the “Bible” belt and felt NO PRESSURE from anyone at all, I have lived in “LIB Cities” and they were fine as well. I have found that anywhere one lives, one will find those of like minds, and I have always liked the diversity. Menifee was good for my health, but the government and economy was not a comfortable fit-we got out in time and did not lose everything we had. Central Texas is NOT good for my health; however, Austin is just such a fun town! I am not a fan of San Antonio, cannot pin point why, but it matters not-we live in between the two cities. It is a pretty countryside, but the air does not agree with me. After living in both dry and humid climates, I find that I need some humidity-loved going to Laguna Beach, felt great, but could not afford to live there. So, when I am ready to retire,we will be heading to South Carolina. To us, it is affordable, many transplanted New Yorkers (so,it will be like home to me); I like the sea air and the salt on my lips; it makes me feel rejuvenated. Yes, humidity will be present, but with the breezes from the ocean, I really like it. So, that is what I feel; there is no perfect place, I have found, but a place where I can worship, debate someone on issues who have differing opinions than I have, breathe and not pay an arm and leg to be there, is the “prefect” place for me.

    by DianaF — March 19, 2013

  21. There are many affordable manufactured housing communities in Southwest Florida. You will pay lot rent, but that varies from community to community depending on the amenities. The Fort Myers area, particularly North Ft.Myers has many with older communities affering the best value. Most of the homes being sold are in great condition, communities are very social, and close to the city of Ft. Myers with culture, restaurants, and excellent medical facilities. My mother, now 87 years old has lived at Lake Fairways, a golf community, since the late 80’s, and as her friends and neighbors pass away, homes are being sold for less than $15,000, some for even $5000.00 to settle estates. Worth a look for folks on tight budgets….

    by Sandy — March 19, 2013

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