September 26, 2018 — A few years ago we published an article about small town retirement that a lot of people seemed to really like: “Five Big Reasons to Choose a Small Town Retirement“. Here is the counterpoint; some great reasons why that might not be the best idea.
Moving to a small town for retirement is a frequent dream for many baby boomers. Friendly neighbors, walking to downtown for coffee, and no traffic are just some of the attractions for people fed up with suburban sprawl and city hassles. Unfortunately, sometimes the dream does not work out that well. Or, people just realize that small town living isn’t for them.
Some of the problems we have seen
Access to medical care. The #1 issue we hear about is people who are disappointed with the health available in the small town they move to. There might not be many doctors, few specialists, and only a tiny hospital offering limited care. This really becomes a problem if you develop a condition that requires a specialist or a big hospital. A two or three hour drive to regular appointments, or in an emergency, will be a big problem for you. Small towns also greatly reduce your choice of doctors. It is not so much of an issue with towns that are near a big metro, of course, where the quality of care tends to be higher.
Entertainment options. If your new town only has a couple of good eateries, you might get bored quickly. Likewise if it doesn’t have a good movie theater, local drama or musical venue, or other entertainment available, you might begin to feel like you are missing out.
Everybody’s business. If you have lived your adult life in a city you might be unpleasantly surprised by how much interest your new neighbors take in just about every aspect of your life. What church you go to (or don’t go to), for example, or your politics. If you prefer to be more private, it might take some effort to maintain a comfortable distance.
Can’t break in – or fit in. When you move to a small town with set social hierarchy, you might have trouble breaking in, despite your best efforts. The people that have lived there forever don’t necessarily want you, either. As one person on our Blog reported, the locals… “like to see ya’ come, and they like to see you go!” Your Topretirements Editor sees evidence of the same thinking when he visits a town and gets enthusiastic about it. “Don’t tell anyone about us” they say, drawing up their version of a drawbridge. Also, if you come from a faster-paced environment, you might be too intense to fit in with the locals.
Not enough diversity. One problem happens if, for example, your politics are blue and the town is deeply red, as might happen in the south (the opposite might occur in the northeast or in coastal America). Feeling like you are in the minority and having to guard your conversations has sometimes been an issue experienced by our friend Jeff in his adopted South Carolina community. Likewise if you like to be in a diverse racial, religious, and ethnic environment, chances are most small towns are going to disappoint.
Transportation problems. Most small towns have no or a very limited public transportation system. If you can walk, bike, or drive, you might not need it. But in other cases the services might be so limited and infrequent to be trying. Likewise the distance to an airport with service to many other cities can be very frustrating to people who plan on travelling a lot in their retirement. There is probably no Uber, and maybe only one taxi.
Tourist town issues. One issue about small towns was described on our Blog by Carol. She mentioned Charlevoix, MI, which is not only a beautiful town sometimes mobbed by tourists, but which also has a drawbridge that can bring local traffic to its knees. Small towns that are big tourist draws can wear you down with their traffic, dawdling tourists, and crowded restaurants.
It’s a personal choice
There is no perfect solution for everyone. Some people are going to thrive in a small town. Others will suffocate. If you are tempted to try a small town retirement, the best way to find out is to try it, visiting or renting for an extensive period before you make a major move.
Many of our Members have offered this advice in the past: if you do choose small town living, try to be close to a city or college town. That way you can experience the best of both worlds.
Comments? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below. Did you retire to a small town – and if you did – how is it going? Would you do it again?
For further reading:
“Five Big Reasons to Choose a Small Town Retirement”
Five Reasons Why You Might Not Want to Retire in a Small Town (Wall St. Journal)