August 3, 2010. You can probably imagine the questions that come up when your editor meets someone and they find out about our association with Topretirements.com. The #1 question is almost always, “Where is the best place to retire”. They mean it as a serious question, so before we respond we have to pause and try not to be too overbearing. That’s because the answer we always give – “That depends on you” -could seem a bit snide. (Here is the link to our list of the “100 Best Retirement Towns for 2010″).
Sure, we know that Asheville (NC), Sarasota (FL), and Prescott (AZ) are the 3 most popular retirement
towns at Topretirements. But does that make them the best? Not necessarily, in our opinion. They are all great places to live and retire, but there are other factors that might not make them the best choice for you. After all, it is you who is retiring and choosing where to live, not anyone else. Let's look at some of the factors that might go in to choosing the best retirement town for you, all of which we have mentioned before. Please remember that everyone's list of factors is unique to them, based on what they determine is most important to them about a retirement location.
1. Close to family and friends. Many people believe that the number 1 cause of retirement regret is choosing a spot too far from friends and family. So if you have grandchildren or a favorite sister you need to see a lot of, you might not want to move too far away, unless of course you think they might visit you frequently.
2. Will your pension be taxed?. We just wrote an article for a magazine published by the National Association of Retired Federal Employees. The magazine asked their readers to write in with why their town was a great place to retire. Readers cited lots and lots of reasons for why their towns were great retirement choices (climate, activities, good value, medical care, food/restaurants, adult education, etc.), but there were only a very few reasons given for bad choices. By far the most important reason for a bad choice was tax unfriendliness. They chose a state that taxes pensions, while there were plenty of places where they could have moved that exempt that income from taxation (the same situation applies to taxation of social security income). See our article on the "Most Tax Friendly States" for more.
3. The things you want to do. The other major reason why these retired federal employees regretted choosing the town they retired to was the lack of anything to do. One man even said, "This is a one horse town and the horse moved out of town a long time ago.". The point is, just because you've lived somewhere all of your life doesn't make that a good reason to stay there. The best place for you to retire might be the one place that has excels in offering the things you like to do - such as having the best fishing, opera, bookstore, parks, outdoor recreation, friendliest people, bird watching, golf courses, star-gazing, etc.
4.Welcomes retirees. Look for a place that welcomes retirees. Generally speaking, if a lot of retirees have moved to a town or region, it is going to be very easy for you to meet people and immerse yourself in the local social scene. That's because there will be so many people in the same situation, all of whom are looking to get started making friends and having a social life.
5. The right weather. Maybe you like the 4 seasons, and have to have some kind of winter. If that is the case, no place in the sunbelt will be right for you, no matter how popular it is with other people. On the other hand, if you want to fish or play golf all winter, you had better choose a town that has warm winters. When 2 spouses can't agree about the weather, maybe you have to choose a compromise town - perhaps one in the Carolinas or New Mexico.
6. The right budget. The most popular retirement towns aren't usually the most expensive, but they won't be the cheapest either. You must choose a place that fits your budget. If your dream town happens to be on the expensive side, perhaps that means accepting less home than you would have liked, or settling on a neighborhood that means a further walk to the beach. On the other hand, your dollars will go a lot further and you might be able to avoid any compromises at all, if you were to choose a town in the south, midwest, or beaten down parts of Florida where prices are low.
7. The right communities. Paris, TN, the #4 most popular retirement town at Topretirements has a whole lot of things going for it. Median home prices under $100k, 2 enormous lakes, and lots of retirees. But what it doesn't have much of are active adult communities. For those folks who want to live in a particular active adult community, the town doesn't necessarily make much difference.
8. The environment that suits you. San Diego is the #9 most popular town on our list. So if you were thinking southern California retirement, it might be your best place to retire. But if a), you hate California, b) don't like cities in any form, and c) want a small college town - San Diego is never going to be your best place to retire.
The Bottom Line
The obvious lesson from all this is that you should narrow your search to towns and regions that best fit your criteria. But before you do that, you have to identify your criteria. If you never have done so before, we recommend that you download our free "Baby Boomers Guide to Selecting a Retirement Community" (the same quiz is also in our "100 Best Retirement Towns" book, and then complete the exercises in that book. Likewise, take our free Retirement Ranger, which will, after you answer 10 short questions, give you a personalized report of your best places to retire.
What do you think is the best place to retire?
Please use the Comments section below to give us your ideas on how to choose the best place to retire.