June 15, 2021 — Where do people go when they choose an international retirement? Different sources have different answers for the best places to retire abroad. The 2021 Expat Insider Survey named Taiwan, Mexico, and Costa Rica as the best 3 places for American expatriates of all ages. A study looking at Americans who receive Social Security benefits put Canada, Japan, and Mexico at the top of their list, while Investopedia rated Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico as the best 3 countries for American expat retirees. Other countries making frequent appearances on this type of lists are Thailand, Portugal, Spain, Vietnam, Ecuador, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and France. But in truth, people go all over the globe in pursuit of a happy retirement, and for a variety of reasons.
Some of the factors to consider when choosing a country for an expat retirement are:
June 12, 2021 — Thanks to the 200 people who took our Home Readiness for Retirement Quiz. The Topretirements community appreciates the few minutes you took to assess your home’s readiness. We hope that you found the exercise useful. We know we did, our grab bars were installed today! Here are the results of the survey, with several surprises mixed in with findings that were more predictable.
The point of the quiz is to make sure that wherever you decide to live in retirement, your home is a safe place that lets you age gracefully in place. The good news is that most homes can be retrofitted to get there. Those without a first floor bedroom/bath option face a more problematic situation.
Almost three quarters (77%) of our Members have a bedroom/bath on the first floor, which is great news. They should be able to stay in their homes regardless of their mobility in the future.
Grab bars are another big issue. It is not a big surprise, but the majority of our Members and visitors (70%) do not have grab bars in critical places in their homes like bathrooms. Fortunately this is an easy fix, a good grab bar costs only about $20 and is relatively easy to install (unless you have a fiberglass shower enclosure).
Shower thresholds are a problem as well. Only 25% of survey respondents reported that their shower threshold was 1″ or less. That is not only a problem for wheelchair access, should you have to use one, but the stretch required to get over a bathtub can easily result in an injury or fall.
Most people have level first floors with no elevation change. About 80% of quiz takers said there are no steps to go up or down on the first floor of where they live. That is great because it not only reduces the chances of a fall from an unnoticed floor level change, but it makes moving around a lot easier for people using canes, walkers, or wheelchairs. For the 20% with step up or down there are usually solutions, like short ramps.
About half can enter their homes without having to go up more than one step. My late father-in-law often viewed the three steps he had to climb from the garage to his first floor as a mini-Matterhorn. Ramps can usually fix this problem unless there is a shortage of space.
The penetration of levers on doors instead of knobs could be improved. Just over half (55%) of people taking the quiz so far have levers on the doors that go to key areas in their homes.
Other results from the Quiz are shown below:
How many steps do you have to climb to reach your first floor from outside or garage?
None or 1
5 or more
2. On your first floor, do you have to take any steps up or down to get to any rooms?
1 or More
3. To enter your home or key rooms within it, what type of door handles to you have?
Looks like there is room for improvement in this area.
4. Is there a first floor master bedroom with bath?
This is the hardest thing to fix to make a home suitable for aging in place. The good news is over 3/4 of survey takers already have a first floor master. But if there is no bedroom/bath on the first floor and there is no possibility of adding one, you should probably consider finding another home for the last part of your retirement.
Option to add
5. Can laundry room be accessed without climbing steps?
Most of the people taking the quiz will be able to do their laundry even if they have trouble negotiating stairs.
6. Are there grab bars in bath, toilet, and changing areas?
This was the most common failing of people taking the quiz. Fortunately, it is also the easiest to fix. Slips and falls, most of them occurring in the bathroom, are a serious and avoidable health risk that could ruin your retirement.
7. What is the height of your toilet seats?
The ideal height for a toilet seat is 17-19″, which allows someone to sit down with ease, even from a wheelchair. Physical therapists look for damage to walls and the toilet when people “fall” onto the seat because it is too low. If you are able, practice sitting down and getting up without using your hands, this will definitely increase your muscle tone.
8. Is there sufficient room for a wheelchair to enter bathroom and approach toilet and sink?
Due to the way we phrased this question, it is unclear if people thought we were asking what the situation is in their bathroom, or if we wanted to know what the ideal clearance is. Either way, it looks like some education is needed. According to the ADA, a clear circle of at least 60 inches around the side wall and 56 inches from the rear wall is required to allow a wheelchair to turn.
Turning space of a minimum of at least 48” in diameter
Turning space of a minimum of at least 60” in diameter
9. How much vertical clearance to enter shower? Only about one fourth of quiz takers have the ability to roll into their shower and thus avoid a big step into it. This problem, which can make it near impossible to shower or increase the risk of a fall, can be corrected, although at some expense.
2″ to 17″
o to 1″
18″ to 24″
10.What type of light switches do you have?
Although this is not a big issue, wide rocker switches are a lot easier to use and require less strength. This is an easy correction to make, and if you do it, make sure they are lighted.
Wide rocker switches
Narrow on/off tab
11. What is minimum height of your kitchen counters?
This question tried to ask people what heights they actually have in their kitchens. Judging from the response, most people have standard counter heights, but are not prepared for being wheelchair accessible. To be used by someone in a wheelchair, counters should be at least 32″ and not more than 34″ high. Since people vary by size, if you are redoing your kitchen the heights should be right for the people who use it. A variety of heights, or pull out shelves, are two ways to be prepared.
32″ to 34″
12.What is ideal kitchen storage location range for accessibility?
The majority of people did not get this question right. The narrower range allows people with mobility issues and/or confined to a wheelchair easy access to the stuff they need in the kitchen. Keeping dishes and supplies lower (but not too low) makes life a lot easier.
Storage located from about 15 to 48 inches is considered optimal for accessible kitchen designs.
Storage located from about 20 to 44 inches is considered optimal for accessible kitchen designs.
13.Which of these important task areas have strong lighting in place for baby boomer aged eyes?
Most people think that the lighting for their major task areas is up to snuff, which is good. It is usually not hard to correct those that might fall short.
All of the above
Reading or hobbies
Entry and steps
The majority of quiz takers seem to live in homes where they can age in place easily. While it appears very few have a perfect situation, the majority are OK on the big and hardest to correct issues – first floor masters and first floor level changes. Most other deficiencies can be remedied fairly easily.
June 8, 2020 — Want to know if the home you are living in will be able to keep up with you over the next 25 years or so of your retirement? Well, just take this quick quiz and we’ll give you an instant score. We’ve graded it high, but the good news is that if your score is low there is a lot you can to do fix it!
June 6, 2021 — It doesn’t matter. Whether you plan on staying in the home where you’ve always lived, buy a new retirement home, or you haven’t yet decided where you are going to retire, the same principle applies. You have to make sure that your home continues to be an easy place to live as you age in place – transitioning from newly retired to graceful old age. If you don’t, life in that home is going to get harder, if not impossible. This article will lay out some of the things that you absolutely, positively, must keep in mind; either if you buy a new home or decide to stay in the one where you live now. At the end of the article you will find a quick quiz to help you evaluate if your home is ready to support your retirement.
Commonly called universal design, the idea is take steps to insure that your home will be a friendly place to live, no matter what your physical condition in the future. It starts with the assumption that you might not always be able to see well, bend down or reach up, walk unassisted, or have great balance. That might not seem that important now, but it could easily be the case some day. Most homes assume that everyone who lives there has normal physical abilities. Sadly, not all of us will have those during the rest of our lives, and those changes usually come out of nowhere.
Keep these universal design principles in mind for the long haul:
May 27, 2021 — Not everyone dreams of retiring in an active community, a small town, or the suburbs. There is a sizable group of baby boomers who yearn for something bigger than that. For these folks, retiring in a small or medium sized city might be just the ticket. This lifestyle has the attraction of living in the center of things, walking to everything, choosing from a raft of interesting restaurants, or seeing a good play production or concert. To these folks that is a lot more appealing than endless rounds of golf, pickleball, or mowing the lawn. Here are picks for some great places to retire that offer an urban lifestyle.
For cities to be considered we had several wish list items, although not every city will have all of them. We tried to find cities that are walkable; where pedestrians enjoy wide sidewalks, safe crossing zones, and some separation from cars. Pedestrian-only zones are a big plus. Bike lanes and paths that keep you and your bicycle out of harm’s way from cars are nice to have. There has to be a number of good restaurants and cultural venues to choose from. The presence of a college or university definitely adds value. And finally, there should be some living options either in the downtown or in a quiet nearby neighborhood. Another bonus would be low cost of living (not all of our picks met that hurdle). We published a list of 9 Great Small Cities for Retirement a few years ago, and boy did that generate a lot of Comments and suggestions (199) – we think you will find them worth reading.
May 24, 2021 — The Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) has released the results from its annual retirement confidence survey – and they are pretty good! Back in 2014, 55% of all workers said they were “confident they would have enough money to retire confidently”. This year, 72% of all workers say they are that confident, and 80% of retirees agree (in 2014 only 67% were that confident). The survey also had some other extremely interesting findings that we have detailed below.
Covid and confidence
One would have thought that a year of being in the Covid pandemic would have negatively affected how retirees feel about their retirements. Instead, 72% feel about the same level of confidence, and only 19% feel “slightly less confident”. How much the heady stock market has had an effect on this confidence is unknown, although we would venture it has been positive.
About one third of overall workers say the pandemic has affected their ability to save for retirement. One in five workers saw their pay or working hours negatively affected by the pandemic.
Of the 23% of retirees who feel less confident in total, most of them seem to be those with major debt problems, savings under $10,000, never saved for retirement, and those with poor health. However when it comes to debt, only 8% of retirees think they have a serious problem with it, while 26% think they have a minor problem.
Where would you guess most workers go for retirement planning advice? Our guess wasn’t the right answer. About 35% of people rely on family and friends, 35% do their own research online or with other sources, and 27% use a financial planner. About 22% rely on their employer. Some 36% of retirees say they have a financial planner.
Retiring earlier than planned
One of the more startling findings in the study is in when people retire. About half of them say they retired earlier than planned (46% vs. 48% who retired about when they expected). This is a result we have seen in many surveys – workers on average think they will retire much later than they actually do. Often it is an unexpected health issue or layoff that triggers the retirement. These problems tend to come out of the blue, and when they do they have a negative effect on retirement finances. EBRI found that half of workers believe they will gradually transition into retirement. However, 7 in 10 retirees report they had a full-time stop. Although almost three quarters say they will work in retirement, less than half do any kind of paid work.
Retirement lifestyle – good news for most folks
Some 71% of retirees say their retirement is either about what they expected or slightly better. That represents a slight dip from the 2020 survey results. Fewer said it was much better (10%) than much worse (19%). Again, there was a slightly more positive experience in 2021 vs. 2020.
Even more figures
The full report makes for interesting reading. There are the results for spending expectations in retirement, use of retirement savings, confidence in Medicare and Social Security. You can see the full report here.
Comments? How is your confidence in a comfortable retirement? Are you spending about what you thought? Did you retire when you thought you would? Please share your experiences in the Comments section below.
May 22, 2021— More than three-quarters of baby boomers won’t move more than a few miles away from where they live now when they retire. This article will explore the case for sticking close to home in the next phase of your life.
There must be plenty of strong arguments for staying put, since so many of us do just that. Here are some of the major ones, along with ideas on how to make that decision work.
– Family. Staying close to children and close relatives is often the best reason for retiring where you live now. Grandchildren, if we are fortunate enough to have any, are usually a great source of joy, but without all the work associated with raising our own children! So sticking close enough where you can see loved ones without a long drive or plane flight will be a regular source of happiness. In the past Covid year, those extended families who lived near one another had a big advantage many others did not.
May 19, 2021 — Last week we asked our Members to tell us where they retired, or where they are considering. The response, although certainly not overwhelming, did come up with a lot more suggestions. To see all of them you can go to the Comments from that article, 29 of them so far. We have summarized (lightly editing) the places that were mentioned there, but you should really read the originals in their entirety to get more detail. We also encourage you to tell us where you are retiring, either at the bottom of this article or on the original one. Thank you to all who contributed, we really appreciate you making the effort!
May 18, 2020 — The Southeast is by far the most popular region for retirement on this site. But which of the hundreds of 55 plus and active adult communities in this region attract the most attention from our Members and visitors? To find out we examined the data from the first five and one half months of 2021. Here are the most popular communities in the Southeastern states of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina (we included Alabama but no communities made the cut). Most of the winners are in Florida (15), with Georgia and South Carolina making up the rest. This article updates one we did in 2018, and complements a similar one for the Southwest: “15 Most Popular Active Adult Communities in the Southwest for 2019“.
The results are a combination of: “of course” (The Villages and several communities we have as advertisers), “head shakers” that we never expected to make this list, and some pleasant “surprises”. What was really interesting is that only seven of the communities on our 2018 list made it again this year. The winners cover a wide range – from really big (On Top of the World and Solivita), to 55+ communities within larger master planned developments (Cresswind), to special interest (Shantinakin and Nalcrest), to inexpensive manufactured home and RV communities popular with snowbirds (Lost Lakes and Jamaica Bay). Note that most, but not all, of these communities are designated 55 plus, although the majority of their residents would probably meet that qualification.
While these are the 21 most popular active adult communities on this site for these four states, they might not necessarily be the “best” for your needs. They were, however, interesting enough to beat out hundreds of other great communities. If this list does anything for you we hope it expands your horizons, showing how important it is to spread your net wide when researching active adult and 55 plus communities. There are thousands of choices that might work for you, but you won’t even find out about them unless you look around. There are many good choices awaiting you, so make a little effort and go beyond the one you or your friends know about.
May 12, 2021 — Just about everyone struggles with a word or a name occasionally. As in, the name of person coming toward you in the supermarket is right on the tip of your tongue, but it just won’t come out. So embarrassing, and yet so common. The Alzheimer’s Association has some great information that can help differentiate between normal age-related change and the more serious signs of approaching dementia. We will recap some of those points here, but their article, Early Warning Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s, has even more detailed information that everyone will find useful. It seems that the difference between Alzheimer’s and ordinary age-related change are degree (how serious the behavior is), and length of time it is displayed.
Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. There are many other forms of dementia as well. Here are 10 warning signs, along with examples of normal age-related changes: