July 6, 2010 — Whether you stay where you live now or move to a new town, choosing a retirement town or active adult community is a life-altering experience. If you choose well, you will be able to live comfortably on your resources, enjoy activities you like, and savor relationships with friends and family. Choose poorly, and you might be living in near poverty, not be able to participate in fun activities, and be bored and lonely. This article is designed to help you understand some of the best reasons we have heard of for choosing a particular retirement town or community.
Let us reiterate one thing before we provide the list – staying where you are is a choice. It can be the right choice for millions of people, but it should be made actively, rather than passively by just avoiding the question.
11 Good Reasons
1. Be near friends and family. Children and grandchildren are the most important reasons for being for many people. Living in a town with convenient access to them can be extremely important for these folks. The younger generations are probably not likely to move to you, so usually you must be the ones moving. Note that many new master-planned communities are being built with mixed age and age restricted neighborhoods in the same community – a new twist that works for many. Victoria Gardens within Victoria Park in Deland, FL is one example.
2. Climate. The weather is important to just about everyone. Some folks hate humidity and heat, others can’t abide the cold. If you can afford to live in 2 places, you might never have to experience the extremes you don’t like. For others, a compromise solution like the not too cold/not too hot weather in western North Carolina, Virginia, Oregon, or California is the solution. Choose the best answer for you.
3. Friendly people. This factor may be more powerful than you think. Most people wouldn’t think of moving to a new part of the country where they feared they might not fit in, like moving from the south to the northeast, or vice versa. The big advantage of many towns that attract lots of retirees (and that includes active adult communities) is that there are many people in the same boat – they are all new to town, so making friends is easier and has fewer barriers.
4. Lower cost of living. If you don’t have enough money to stay where you are now while maintaining your current lifestyle – move! That could be as simple as moving down the street to a downsized home or apartment, or it could mean moving to a state that has a lower cost of living (in the south or midwest). Just try to keep the other 10 reasons in mind too.
5. Tax friendly. This factor is related to cost of living, but not completely independent either. For example, if you have a nice pension and/or social security, you probably want to stay away from a state that will tax that pension. That can make the difference, even in a state where other expenses or taxes are high. States that tax dividends and income won’t be that attractive if you have saved well and plan on living on that money. See our list of tax-friendly states for more help.
6. The activities you love. If you live to play golf, Maine or Minnesota might not be such a great choice. They both have many fine courses, but the season is short. If bridge, arts and crafts, or theater are big on your list, you can live in many different, non-climate dependent locations. Likewise if skiing and mountain hiking are your thing, Florida isn’t such a great choice. Go where your fun is.
7. Near a college. Whether it is returning to the college town where you went to school, a desire to take classes, or just the wish to be in a young and vibrant community, living in a college town can be a continual rush for many retirees. There are university-related retirement communities for even more immersion.
8. Near the beach or a lake. We see from our Retirement Ranger questions that having access to a beach is very important to many people. For them being close could mean a 3-hour drive – that is still accessible. Living on the coast or a lake is a retirement dream for many, and we can see why. See this article: 11 Affordable Places to Retire on the Water
9. Rich cultural life. This could mean living in a city, where movies, plays, restaurants, dance, concerts, and more provide a continual buffet. It could also mean living in a college town. Or, you might find a special town where festivals bring on the culture, like Ashland Oregon – home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
10. Outdoor recreation. If you love mountains, biking, the beach, surfing, golf, or fishing – plan accordingly.
11. Access to quality medical care. You might be healthy today, but disease and accidents can strike any of us, any time. Choosing a place with long drives to hospitals/specialists and poorly rated local facilities might be a big mistake. As we age, this factor becomes more and more important.
What do you think?
Use the comments section below to let us know what your reasons are for retirement. What do you think is most important?