Is Your Town Ready for Your Retirement? A Checklist

Category: Retirement Planning

August 19, 2014 — Whether you have decided to stay where you live now or maybe move out of state, you need to make a wise choice about where you retire. Part of that decision hinges on you being realistic, and demanding, about the requirements you need to make all the years of your retirement fulfilling – not just the first 10 years or so.

As we baby boomers age we are definitely moving the average age of America upwards. With 76 or so million boomers growing older in a total population of about 308 million, the median age in this country is changing – it was 37 in 2010; by 2050 it will be 41 (according to Pew Research Center). Meanwhile the senior population in the U.S. will more than double, from 41 million to 86 million.

Will your community be up to the task?
We hope you have done the preparation to maximize your retirement. But will your town also be ready for you as a resident in your 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond? This article contains some key factors you should be evaluating.

There are a lot of communities that, as they currently stand, are not a good place for you to retire. They just don’t have the environment and infrastructure to let you maintain the lifestyle and freedom you want to have. Think about this question which a friend posed this week: “Will self-driving cars solve the transportation problems of aging baby boomers”. We thought it was a great question, because if cars will truly be able to drive us hither and yon without us at the wheel, we can live anywhere! Meanwhile that dream remains a hard to believe fantasy.

Checklist for your new community
To maintain the quality of life that you are used to there are a number of factors that need to be in place in your new community. Some help to make up for declining life skills as you age, while others address your changed situation – from busy worker to a person with leisure time at your command.

- Public Transportation. Does your community have any public transportation, and if so, what kind? Are there taxis, call for ride, public buses, light rail, or subways? Picture yourself unable to drive – how are you going to buy groceries, see friends, and get to doctor’s appointments.

- Healthcare. Most communities cover healthcare for emergencies and minor incidents. But how about a major medical condition like a heart attack or stroke? Will you have to be airlifted to a hospital for treatment, or do you run the risk of having a major procedure done in a small facility that doesn’t handle that level of care frequently? How about proximity to all of those “…ologists” we baby boomers tend to need. Do you really want to drive 3 hours to see your cardiologist, dermatologist, orthopedist, urologist, etc?

- Property tax relief. For most retired baby boomers it is your property tax that might drive you out of your home. This is particularly true in the Northeast, which tends to have the highest property taxes in the nation. A few states and some cities have senior tax relief programs for people over 65. Almost all have income caps, so if you have more than a poverty level income they probably won’t help you. Sometimes they are oversubscribed and thus the actual benefit is quite minimal. One of the best programs is the Homestead protections offered by FL and CA – at least the assessed value of your home is stable.

- Recreation programs. Heh, you’re retired and now is the time to have some fun. Think about recreation for the rest of your life, too. So when your knees finally give out and tennis is a fond memory, is there a senior or community center where you can play billiards, cards, or bocci? Is there an aquatic center with a pool that’s swimmable year round? How about a municipal golf course or fitness center? Are there parks that you would like to spend time in, perhaps with trails and interesting views?

- Livability. This means many different things to many different people. Walkability is one factor in livability. Others include: crime rates .. good shopping and restaurants… and access to the things that make live worth living. If there is no town nearby or it is so hard to get there, living your life is going to be a challenge or not so interesting.

- Pedestrian and bike access. This is another aspect of livability. If you want to, can you safely bike or walk to a park, store, or library? More and more cities and towns are investing in bike lanes and sidewalks – and they definitely improve the quality of life.

Eugene, Oregon Public Library

- Library programs. Today’s libraries are more about getting people together than just loaning books. Towns that support their libraries tend to have many interesting programs for residents of all ages, adding much to cultural and community life.

- Bookstore. We like bookstores, even though they are becoming an endangered species. Perhaps there is another kind of store that you like to frequent. We just hope your retirement town has some place that you will enjoy frequenting.

- Aging in place organizations like the village movement. More and more communities are developing “village” concepts that facilitate community and aging in place. They offer volunteer ride programs, cooperative help with home chores, shopping, companionship, and a lot more. They are inexpensive to join and quite essential if you want to maintain your lifestyle and live in your own home.

- Are there any future housing options? If you are lucky you will have 20, maybe even 30 or more years of retirement to enjoy. But if you live long enough the chances are you won’t be able to stay in your own home all that time. So when an illness or just old age forces that move, what are your options? In general, the more choices, the greater the likelihood that one of them will fit your situation. The worst case scenarios – you have to move out of town, or settle for a facility where you won’t be happy.

Bottom Line
You not only have to be prepared to maximize your retirement, but you need to pick a place to live that can deliver on quality of life. Use this checklist to make sure you make a good decision.

For further reading:
10 Affordable, and Livable Places to Retire
10 Great Walkable Towns for Retirement

Top 10 Retirement Towns for Amenities
It Takes a (Virtual) Village to Stay in Your Home

Comments? How does your town stack up against these requirements? Do you have other necessities that any potential retirement town is going to have to deliver against? Please share your thoughts and reactions in the Comments section below.

Posted by Admin on August 19th, 2014

12 Comments »

  1. If your current town is not leaning toward enhancing its offerings to be attractive for retirement you should take some steps to encourage improvements. Municipalities have a master plan and long range plan and sometimes have public sessions where citizens can give their input. Municipalities have opportunities to apply for grants. Encourage yours to apply for grants to enhance their offerings for those getting older. The public library offers far more than books on loan. If your library has a Friends of the Library membership program join and be active. Friends groups often have fund raising efforts that help make libraries offer more for the population as it ages. There is much that you can do to encourage your community. Now is the time!!

    by David M. Lane — August 21, 2014

  2. We’re leaving CA mostly because of high property taxes. The paltry homeowners exemption is a joke – my taxes rise every year even while the assessed value remains nearly the same. I feel I get little return for my taxes as my county/state is broke. It appears that police protection, poor schools and welfare programs suck us dry.

    by John H — August 22, 2014

  3. Same feelings about California, although we can’t find a better place to move to. The temperate coastal climate can’t be matched elsewhere. Looking into Vancouver Washington, Wyoming, and Nevada for tax reasons but then you have rain, snow and heat. Also favoring a liberal homestead exemption, such as in Florida..

    by Tammy — August 23, 2014

  4. John H,

    I left S. California for pretty much the same reasons almost 4 years ago. Crazy property taxes, high gasoline tax, and more. Miss the beautiful weather, but go back often as a visitor. Amazing how much more you have living elsewhere. Good luck.

    by Loralee — August 23, 2014

  5. Sounds like unbearable taxes are what is making people leave places when they retire. Maybe its time to start looking for places with much lower taxes but still offer the stuff you need and like. Central Florida is such a place. Go to Polk County Florida to a city of 35,000 like Winter Haven FL. Taxes are very reasonable, excellent offerings–great library, 40 lakes within the city limits, major airports with reasonable flights to everywhere, many cruise ports to choose from, places to eat, Disney World and all the great attractions less than an hour away. Florida resident passes to just about everything and ocean and gulf beaches within an hour. Homesteading is what makes a great difference in taxes. Our taxes (county, city and school together) are $230.00/year on a 1400 sq.ft. condo overlooking a chain of lakes. Come on down to sunny Florida if you want reasonable living with lots of great stuff to do!

    by David M. Lane — August 23, 2014

  6. David: Do you live in a 55 plus community in Winter Haven and if so, what is the name/website-thanks,

    by judy — August 23, 2014

  7. Yes Judy we do live in a 55 plus community in Winter Haven FL. 20% of units at our place can be lived in by people under 55 yrs old and we do have younger people moving here. There are 79 units total, all 2 or 3 bedrooms all with lake views, gated, covered parking, pets allowed within guidelines, pool heated and usable all year long minutes from everything in town. Winter Haven also has AMYRAK service twice a day north and south. Easy to take trips to Miami or north to Savannah, Charleston, Washington DC or New York City. The condo association has a website that includes a few pictures and other info: lakeridgemedia.com. Lakeridge condo is not the only one in town but as we look at it it is the best place to live.

    by David M. Lane — August 24, 2014

  8. David: Thanks very much for all the information-will check out the website

    by judy — August 24, 2014

  9. Judy, another suggesting regarding shopping for residential condominiums. There is a website: condo.com. Just type in the city e.g. Winter Haven FL (or any area) and listings will appear including square footage, room sizes, bathrooms, common area offerings, fees, taxes and often as many as a dozen photos. While there are no Lakeridge condos listed there at this time you can get some idea of some of the other places on the market. Just remember the taxes listed in places like Florida may not be what your taxes will be if the place is homesteaded. You have to apply for homestead so check that out. Good luck in your search.

    by David M. Lane — August 24, 2014

  10. David, thanks for that helpful hint!

    by Linda — August 25, 2014

  11. David, thanks again for that info; I hate to sound stupid, but what does it mean if the place is homesteaded.

    by judy — August 25, 2014

  12. judy if you do a google or other search on the web looking for: homesteading in Florida how and why; you will get a good answer to this place. In a nutshell it makes you a legal resident of Florida with this as your legal residence. Also if you look for: Polk Florida Property Appraiser; you will get what the procedure is here in the County where Winter Haven is located. anything is just as and I’ll try to answer

    by David M. Lane — August 29, 2014

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