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Best Places to Retire – The Case for Staying Right Where You Are

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

December 19, 2011 — While not every Topretirements member is interested in moving to a new place once they retire, most are at least open to the idea. That is why we have devoted so many resources to this question, particularly on factors like where to live and what should be considered in such a move. But, tempted as we might be by the lure of low taxes or sunnier skies, probably three-quarters of us won’t move more than a few miles away from our current home in retirement. This article will explore the case for sticking close to home in the next phase of your life.

Just as there are many good reasons for moving far from home, there are plenty of strong arguments for staying in the town or area where you live now. Here are some of the major ones:

– Family. In our book this our children and close relatives are always the best reason for choosing a retirement destination. The ties we have to family are usually what make us the happiest. 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 our kin without a long drive or plane flight will be a regular source of happiness.

– Friends. While not as powerful as family ties, your friends are not something you want to give up easily. Sure, you can come back and visit, or they can come to see you in your new location, but it just won’t be the same once you move away. More than that, there is the problem of making new friends in a new community. For some folks that’s easy, but for others it is not. Making friends in an active adult community is usually quite easy, but it can take time.

– Other social contacts. You might belong to a church and not want to give up the personal connections you have built up over many years. Likewise you might belong to a country club, or act as a volunteer in your community. Moving away from those connections could cause a sense of loss that only becomes apparent once you have moved away.

– Intangibles and culture. You know the neighborhoods and region you live in now. You know what the people are like. Uprooted, some people might not like what they see in a new community. Your new neighbors won’t have the same social and cultural customs and attitudes. They might be more or less liberal, conservative, or religious than your old contacts. You might not think they are as friendly as the folks where you live now. So staying close to home can help you avoid unnecessary change and agita.

– Moving hassles. We don’t know anybody who likes to move. It’s expensive and it is a horrible, drawn-out hassle. Once you have retired, downsizing usually means selling, giving away, or throwing out much of what you accumulated over a lifetime. So if you never move, there is a lot of stress that you won’t have to experience.

Strategies for optimizing your retirement – without moving far
So if you decide not to move far from where you live, what strategies should you take to maximize your happiness?

– Cut your costs. OK, so you are going to stay in the town or neighborhood where you live now. But that doesn’t mean you should continue to live in that energy guzzling, oversized home where you raised your kids. Moving to a townhome, apartment, or smaller new home could save energy and dollars. And, since property taxes are usually the biggest taxes anyone pays in retirement, when you downsize to a less expensive home you will save money on that expense too.

– Make life easier for yourself. Do you really want to be up on a ladder cleaning gutters when you are in your 80’s? Or replacing water heaters, roofs, furnaces, septic tanks, etc. when you are on a tight budget? Moving to a community or building where maintenance is included is going to help you avoid hassles and expenses.

– Prepare for the next phase. When you first retire you are probably most concerned with being active – travel, golf, hiking, or the like. With luck you will be in perfect health into your 80’s and 90’s, and continue to do the active things you love. But on the other hand, your knees might give out or you could have a stroke at any time. Living in a home with universal design features will get you prepared for whatever shape you are in, without compromising your lifestyle. For example, eliminating steps and putting counters lower will let you stay where you are if you develop mobility problems, without expensive retrofitting or moving to a new place. The same goes for a first floor master bedroom.

– Get near public transportation. If we are lucky enough to live a long life, the day will come when we can no longer drive. So if you plan ahead and move to a place that has access to public transportation you will still be able to get out and about. Better yet, try to live in a neighborhood where you can walk to the library, downtown, stores, etc.

– Think about the social aspect. We are social creatures. When you are thinking about a neighborhood, consider how you are going to interact with people on a daily basis. There might be enough fellow baby boomers where you live to create your own retirement neighborhood. You can share services with your neighbors. Or, you can move to an apartment or condo building where your neighbors are close and daily social interactions are easy.

– Go somewhere warm for a month. Florida, Arizona, and the Carolinas have all kinds of rental deals in the current distressed market. For less than $1000 a month you can stay in a nice place and ride out the worst of winter. It’s almost as cheap as staying home, so why not experience the best of both worlds by renting.

For further reference:
Jane and Jack: Retired in Place
What Baby Boomers Want in Their Next Home
What Are the Must-Have Features in Your Next Home
Cooperatives Help Aging in Place Movement

What do you think?
Are you planning on staying near where you live now? What strategies are you going to take to make that work financially and to recognize you might not always be as healthy or active as you are now? Please use the Comments section below to let us know.

Posted by Admin on December 20th, 2011


  1. A study by Lynn Giles, PhD, found that people with extensive social networks outlived those lacking social support by 22 percent. Interestingly, it was friends and not relatives who had this effect. (Not to say relatives aren’t important; they just weren’t a factor in increasing longevity in this study). The effect of friends increasing life span persisted, even when those in the study experienced huge changes such as the death of family members or a spouse.

    So, when wondering “should I stay or should I go,” think about this study. If your friends have all moved away, and you want to stay where you are, you should build up a new social support system.

    Jan Cullinane, The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life (Rodale)

    by Jan Cullinane — December 21, 2011

  2. We received this comment from a member this morning:
    You are wrong. My best retirement place is the one that lends me an opportunity to really mingle and form strong bond with people. I am a single man and definitely need a soul mate for companionship.

    by Admin — December 22, 2011

  3. Seems like the #1 suggestion for retiring where you live is to move to a smaller home. Moving is moving, with all that stress and disposing of property that won’t fit in the downsized home, regardless of whether it’s around the corner or another state. So I’d say that the social network you want to have is the most important decision factor on retiring locally or in a new location.

    by Dave — December 22, 2011

  4. My husband and I are in our pre-retirement planning because we are only 52. I think my biggest concern would be taking on a new mortage at age 60 or 65 or even the new retirement age of 55. We’ve only been in our current home for 4 years so having enough equity to put a large downpayment on a new home will take us at least 10 more years in our current address. I do, however, love the idea of renting in a sunny state for a month. We’re forutnate to both have jobs where we work out of home offices.

    by Tracey Lyons — December 22, 2011

  5. I feel a need to comment about the ties of friends not being as important as family. This clearly isn’t always the case. Ever hear the expression, “you can choose your friends but not your relatives?” 🙂 Our friends are in our lives because we WANT them to be, not just because they are related to us! Of course some people have wonderful relationships with their family and that’s great but don’t downgrade the importance of friends. You should live where you want to live because YOU want to live there, not just stay where you are because of family. If you are happy there, great! But people come and go — pick a place where you would like to live and if at all possible, just go. I’ve stayed in CT longer than I wanted because my Mom was getting old. But you can’t put your dreams on hold because of someone else. I love my Mother but at some point you have to do what is right for YOU. And I have known people who moved to be closer to their kids and grandkids — who then up and moved somewhere else a short time later.

    by Chris — December 22, 2011

  6. That is why the study referenced above is important. Social support outside of family is vital for most people.

    by Jan Cullinane — December 23, 2011

  7. What are middle-income couples without children or grandchildren doing and where do they move or stay in place ? Not all of us want to be or have to be by our children and grandchildren yet don’t plan to be bundgy jumping, rapid chasing, or skydiving. Has anyone found affordable spots for quiet, nature-related, book reading retirements with good medical care where we don’t have to converse solely about others children? Don’t assume, because we are not supporting our children and their children, that we all have incomes that allow us to take jaunts to NYC and Europe each month.

    by Sandy — September 24, 2014

  8. […] For further reading Snowbirding Innkeepers Staying in Place and Very Busy Is Retiring Near Your Family a Good Idea? Members Getting Ready for Big Retirement Moves Is Your Town Ready for Your Retirement (Aging in Place) It Takes a Virtual Village to Stay in Your Home The Case for Staying Right Where You Are […]

    by » Retiring in Place – Part 3 - Topretirements — September 24, 2014

  9. Sandy what an excellent question….I would love to see a story on that as well since I’m in the same position. I hope the Administrator will pick up on this.

    by Stacey — September 25, 2014

  10. Hi Sandy:

    I am single (divorced) and in your position. I will not be getting any pension and living on savings from 401K , IRA and Social Security. I am looking for just the type of community you described with lots of charm and accessible to an airport and train travel. Am I wishing for the moon? I have no children. I have seen single women live well in mixed communities–I am not afraid of living near couples.

    by Jennifer — September 26, 2014

  11. We have been talking about moving when retired for a long time. In the mean time we have done a lot to our home. We built the home in 1975 and have kept up with repairs and such but it was time for a face lift. Most of it was done last year. We started with vinyl siding over our cedar shakes. We considered painting again but the price of having someone paint it was pretty expensive so we opted for siding. Then, we decided to roof the house which the builder was a little irritated because the roof should have been done first to avoid damage to the siding. Then we put on a new deck. We have an awning so they had to be careful not to damage the frame. We also have two small barns that were roofed too. My husband painted both barns the color of the house which went from chestnut brown to gray. We had a new boiler installed and a new ac unit that cools all but the bedrooms on the first floor. Had a new paddle fan installed too. I had the awning people come up and put in privacy blinds on the deck. So now with all these improvements it makes it harder to move! The ac unit we installed showed an electricity saving of almost 50% during our hottest month of August. Our boiler, installed in May of this year, which is state of the art will save us lots of money on oil because it is so efficient. But Connecticut is so expensive and we swore we would get out. After living in one home for almost 40 years is hard. We have no children so that isn’t stopping us. The house is a raised ranch and the bathrooms are really small. I know that will be a problem down the road if either of us need special equipment when elderly. I want to move but I want to stay! What to do?? The good thing is that we have spent a lot of money now and our house is set for probably 25 years on the improvements. The bad thing is CT and sucking us dry in taxes. We would have more money to enjoy if we moved to South Carolina or Tennessee and could buy a cheaper house probably the same size as we have now. Very confused as to what to do! Another thing I wanted to mention. Yesterday I was thinking about converting one of our Traditional IRA’s to a Roth IRA. I thought that would be good to start supplementing our income with. I assumed you just convert it over and pay the taxes then the money was yours to use without penalty or taxes if you were over 59 1/2. Well I was poking around today on the computer and this article I read says you can convert it over but you have to let it ‘age’ for 5 years before you can start withdrawing without being taxed or penalized! UGH, nothing is easy!

    by Louise — September 26, 2014

  12. Louise brought up a point about being able to use medical or special equipment in your house. I see that some of the active adult are not very adaptable for this either. I realize they are for ACTIVE adult, but those are often the ones who need a knee replacement or the like. And many to not allow for customization either. So even if I decide on a place in an active adult, will I expect another move or even two?

    I am one of the single, no children folks and moved regularly so there is nowhere that I really consider home. So it is no brainer that I will move, whether I stay in area or not.

    by Elaine — September 26, 2014

  13. Hi Elaine,

    I too have no children, am only child who has moved many times and at a retired 71 with little to no social support (friends moved to be near children). How to move yet to another place and find an instant social support????


    by nancyann williams — September 26, 2014

  14. Even though my family is very minimal, with siblings only and no children, I have read that a person needs to live where they think is best and not rely so much on family and friends. If the family/friends ups and moves or is not in a position to help a person could end up alone anyway. It is best to live where a person can afford to and has the right amenities. Finding instant support will be a challenge but there are ways to meet people like joining a church or synagogue and doing volunteer work and going to meetups. I am the caregiver to my 88 year old mother and I have read that parents really should not do this to their children. I hope in my life that the only time I ever go to someone for help is for an extreme emergency and not to help me manage with daily living. Eventually I plan to relocate out of very expensive and snowy NJ to most likely FL.

    by Janice — September 27, 2014

  15. Nancyann: I think an over 55 community would provide an easy platform to form social connections. I’ve often said if ever left a widow it would be something I would consider, despite the fact that in my opinion the monthly HOA fees are a questionable expense to take on at this point in my life.

    by Alice — September 27, 2014

  16. I went through trying to care for my parents from a distance (couldn’t travel since my own husband was terminally ill, and our kids were still young), and it was an incredibly stressful time. My parents always thought that they could move to be near us later. Unfortunately, ill health caught up with them and them were soon too sick to travel. There’s always a chance that someone will get relocated and have to move again, but I’ll deal with that if it happens. Whether staying in place or relocating, I’m keeping the location of family in mind and want to be within an hour if possible.

    It does seem overwhelming to change locations, versus retiring in place. I started a list, thinking about new doctors, new utilities, new mechanic, new cleaning lady (yeah, I’m spoiled), new library card, new church, and all the other things that you have to take care of when you move. I realized that process might take me about six months or so, but eventually I’d settle in. Heck, after working in a stressful job for 40+ years, making a move my “job” shouldn’t be too tough. The biggest problem will be trying to deal with the isolation that comes with being a widow/alone, as others have mentioned. I’m hoping that a newer 55+ community where everyone is new, perhaps volunteering in a hospital or library, and joining a church will help.

    I have thought about hiring a babysitter for myself someday (college kid or mature high school kid) for a few hours a week, to help with groceries, getting to a doctor or anything else that might start to be too tough. Whoops, I guess I should call the person a “housekeeper” or “aide” instead of a babysitter LOL.

    by Sharon — September 27, 2014

  17. To Janice: I’m in almost the same position. I live with my 93 year old mom. She has someone come in for 3 hours in the morning to bathe and dress her and to other things. I’m home from work by 4:30 and start my “part time job,” I have a sister about 1 1/2 hours away and she does what she can….taking mom to md appts etc. But basically I’m it. I feel the way you do. I’m in NYC but will eventually move to Florida or Georgia. Trying to keep myself in good shape so I won’t have to go thru what my mom is. But all it takes is one broken bone and….

    by Stacey — September 27, 2014

  18. Please check out your local senior center. Ours has a monthly newsletter describing all the activities for the month. Ours is on line too but they will mail it to your home. They have lunch you can buy every day very inexpensive. They have a social worker too to help you with various needs. I went there for them to help me with my Mom’s probate paperwork. They also have scheduled trips to the grocery store and you can arrange transportation to doctor appointments. We have a local nature center that has many programs like hiking and observing nature while hiking and they have social events too. Try adult education courses. You may find like minded people taking a course. Church of coarse has many volunteer opportunities to meet people such as spaghetti dinners and other fund raising functions. Animal welfare always needs volunteers. If you have a Michaels craft store they have courses you can take and maybe meet people there. We also have a soup kitchen here that always needs a helping hand. Getting back to the Senior Center, I would suggest you speak to a Social Worker describing your need of instant Social Support and I think they will help you in that area. That is why they are there to help people who lose a spouse, are lonely, have no one in their lives. That is what their goals are to help the Seniors in the area get out of their homes and socialize with others and be healthy, physically and mentally! Good luck to ALL of us!

    by Louise — September 27, 2014

  19. This post really hit home for me. My husband and I are I are in our early 60s. I am a travel bug and a nomad; he loves our house and where we live and is unyielding about downsizing and moving. What to do?

    We have a 3,000 sq ft, 3 level home – WAY too much room for just the 2 of us. We close of 2 of the 4 bedrooms and the extra baths; I made one my quilt studio. We now rented the 900 sq ft basement with kitchen that we never used, and the rent pays 1/2 of our mortgage.

    I did the math. By the time we sold this house, downsized, and moved into a smaller home – our expenses would be what they are by staying! So we will stay here until and unless we can’t do the stairs anymore. It seems like a perfect solution for us.

    by Liz — September 27, 2014

  20. I made a list of all the factors I would look for in a new retirement location…..excellent nearby health care, and grocery stores like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, a quiet neighborhood and a decent sized lot for my pets, friendly tolerant neighbors, opportunities for learning like an OLLI program, local support systems such as home care agencies, a four season climate, pretty places to walk, reasonable taxes, a house with no stairs, and a cadre of handymen and lawn mowers. Goodness, it didn’t take long to realize that’s what I have right now. So then I asked what about money in a less expensive location. I added up what relocation would cost for the mover, capital gains tax, selling fees, buying fees, and fix-up costs. Again, it didn’t take long to realize that it would take some years in a cheaper location to recover those expenses. So for all those reasons, I will stay where I am and age in place.

    by jinva38 — September 27, 2014

  21. We originally moved to FL from Wi via Oklahoma. My husband can’t stand the cold so here we are. I don’t like it due to the heat & humidity. Our summers are the northerners winter. This year we’ve also had a lot of rain (which we needed -but really, enough is enough already – come back some other day)! We live away from the beaches & north of Orlando. Our city is considered a ‘bedroom’ community but has grown considerably since we came here. Still we are close to good docs, good hospitals & specialty hospitals are in Orlando, of course. They just started a limited train service if you drive & can get to the station. All of the kinks are not worked out yet as to destinations except it goes to Orlando. We can’t really locate due to the children as ours are out west, up north, over east, way south and only one of them has any money to help us in a money way. They would only be able to travel here under the most extreme circumstances. One son lives here & could & would help but there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to/or even want to stay in this area. So…. what to do. I wanted to at least compromise & try Tennessee or Georgia so I could at least get the change of seasons but I’m starting to be a ‘stick-in-the-mud’. We do have an excellent, yet relatively inexpensive active living center very near by & when we made a few adjustments to our home we tried to make it handicap friendly but it’s not ‘wheel-chair-friendly’. My husband still does some work part-time so the car is not always available for me to ‘join’ a club or such so I find myself feeling a little ‘stuck’. I’d like to move to a ‘small town’ that has reasonable bus or cab service or elderly transportation but our finances are so bad that losing even the realtor’s fees by selling the house, even if we could find one in the same condition but a little smaller, would be a hardship. Money is always the key to choices. My criteria would be to find a smallish town, with good transportation, good docs, a good active living system, a good senior center. The house, the family – you never know what they will be able or not be able to do should you need it! One caution if you decide to move to Florida – ask about flooding & sink holes in the area you are considering. We have neither near us but some do.

    by Jeanne C — September 27, 2014

  22. Thank you, Louise and others mentioning senior centers and volunteering. I work for the County Dept. of Aging and hear from retired seniors everyday who complain about loneliness. Family members die unfortunately and the social cliques shut down for seniors left alone who want friends and can’t find anybody to connect with to end their social isolation. People are living longer and very few 90 year olds have spouses, family or friends around them to help them out. This is a situation that most people do not think about. They need groceries, prescriptions, transportation to and from doctor’s appointments. Few 90 year olds drive but they need these things in order to live. If you want to stay where you live to retire, look around in your neighborhood. Are there elderly people who may need some volunteer help? Otherwise they have to pay for someone to meet their needs and many of them do not have enough money. Some of them could qualify for financial support or help from the County Dept. of Aging. But they do not know who to call. Do not be afraid to help or to ask for help in the future. Few of us expect to live in our 90s.

    by JoyceR — September 28, 2014

  23. Jeanne C,
    I would suggest moving to a 55+ community.
    We are on the West coast of Florida in a gated community.
    A lot of people have only 1 car. You can walk,
    bike or use a golf cart to go to the Clubhouse…
    You will meet all kinds of people & can enjoy
    many classes,clubs/activities -solo or as a couple.
    There is a community pool, tennis, exercise room, bocce ball…
    Some of my friends live in attached villas & others large homes.
    Jeanne K

    by Jeanne K — September 28, 2014

  24. Liz – you mentioned that you will stay in your 3,000 sq.ft. home until you can no longer do the stairs. We have a chair lift that we use on our stairs. It works great for our needs and is also great for guests that can no longer do stairs very good. The cost would be between $3,000 and $4,000 depending on your staircase – a good solution for those wanting to stay in place.

    by Nikki — September 28, 2014

  25. Nikki – Really? I had no idea those were so affordable. Thank you for this information; we might be able to stay even longer. 🙂

    by Liz — September 28, 2014

  26. Re: stairlifts. I looked into this as my husband and I also live in a large two story house where the stairs are becoming too much for me. I’ve read complaints about Acorn that state the real expense doesn’t come with installation but with the maintenance. Any comments?

    by Alice — September 29, 2014

  27. @Jeanne K … Thank you for your suggestions. We are looking at that possibility. I have moved most of my life – staying here the longest – and ‘losing’ friends along the way until there are none close by. The ‘community’ style of living would really help me in that way.

    by Jeanne C — September 29, 2014

  28. Liz and Alice – Our stair lift was bought from Acorn and we had a very nice gentleman install it which was all included in the price and it was such a good experience overall. They called after it was installed to see if we were satisfied with the service and we told them we were very satisfied. We have now had it over 2 years with no problems and it gets used several times every day.

    by Nikki — September 29, 2014

  29. Considering elevator. Is that a reasonable possibility? Can one be retrofitted to an existing home and is the cost crazy expensive?

    by jeff — September 30, 2014

  30. Jeff, I don’t know more than this, but recently I looked at some very upscale two-story condos ($388K+ — just curious! can’t possibly afford, between that price and almost $10K in property taxes, HOA, etc) here in town. The agent explained that the kitchen pantry area and above it the large closet area on 2nd floor had been constructed to allow the possible addition of an elevator in future. When I asked what that might cost, she said “about $20-30,000.” And that was with the inside structure already able to accommodate it (no walls needing to be reinforced or moved, etc). For many houses, that kind of internal restructuring might not be possible, and an elevator shaft would have to be added outside — at even more cost. My suggestion is that you talk to a contractor to examine your own situation to get an accurate estimate, if it’s possible at all.

    by Paula — September 30, 2014

  31. Nikki – thanks! I’m going to start looking into stair lift.

    by Liz — September 30, 2014

  32. We have lived 30 years in NH and as we consider retirement we are looking at Oregon as a possible retirement option. Our daughter lives near Portland, OR but we do not know much about the state, the taxes, or the cost of living. We currently have a lake house and would love to get similar property but there doesn’t seem to be many lakes out that way, just rivers. We would love to be on or near water and also near a downtown neighborhood. Walk to get a coffee or hear a bit of live music at the local pub. Is there such a place?

    by Julie — October 1, 2014

  33. Paula, Thanks for your input. I suspect you are right on. Curious, $10k property taxes on $388k condo? Is that NYC, Boston or Chicago?

    by jeff — October 1, 2014

  34. Jeff, these great property taxes can be found in and around Ithaca, New York. Go outside the county and it’s a bit better, but then, you’re out in Appalachia with all that it doesn’t offer (other than sometimes great scenery). I also looked at a small 2 bedroom condo, nicely redone, selling for $249,000 and had property taxes of over $6,000. Property taxes here also include school taxes. Retire to Ithaca only if you are used to NYC, Boston, or Chicago prices and taxes. Too bad, because I’m a Cornell alumna and love the gorges and landscape here, but it’s not a place to get old in unless you have lotsa money. Sad, really.

    by Paula — October 1, 2014

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