Updated December 20, 2016 (Originally posted April 18, 2011)
Like most of our members you are probably working on finding your best place to retire. Will your retirement destination will be where you live now, in the same region, or far away – there are so many possibilities! This article is dedicated to a different idea – that your best place to retire might be 2 places. You might also be interested in this companion article for ideas on dual places to live: “Best Places to Retire: Our Ideal Snowbird Pairings“.
On the Plus Side – Avoiding Compromises
Perhaps the best reason to consider retiring in 2 places is that it helps avoid compromises. Let’s say you hate cold winters and/or hot summers. That’s easy, keeping a home up north for the summers while living in Florida, Hawaii, Mexico, or California during the winters will let you live year round where the weather is always nice. If you can swing it (more about that later), that might be better than a compromise solution like moving to the Carolinas full time where the winters are still chilly and the summers pretty darn hot. You also get the advantage that you can probably stay in contact and hang around with your old friends for half the year.
The Best of Both, and Variety
Living in two places means you don’t have to settle for one kind of lifestyle. For example, you might want the activities of an active adult community, but don’t necessarily want to be in that in kind of environment all year long. Or, you might find that living in a house in one location and an apartment in another offers an interesting variety. Perhaps you would like to live part of the time in an urban environment as a change from the suburbs or small town. Two (or even more places) can help you enjoy a wide and enriching array of lifestyles. Most of the retirees we know of report that living in two different places adds a great deal to their lives – new friends, experiences, and a break from the routine.
There are no rules about the different places you can live in, or the lifestyle you have to choose. Your choice could be as simple as participating in a home exchange program like homeexchange.com, which lets you swap homes with people around the globe. Many people find these invigorating – once a year or more. You might own a home in one state, and rent in another. A big advantage of renting is that you have no strings attached. One winter you get to sample Hawaii, the next year Arizona. Maybe you keep doing that for years, or perhaps you find the perfect location and then always go there.
Coping with the Cost
So many retirees are worried about retiring at all, let alone having the money to live in 2 different places. Yet creativity can come to your rescue. You can start by selling your big house in the suburbs. Downsizing will increase your available retirement nest egg while it alos reduces your costs.
You don’t have to own 2 places – you might rent one or even both. If money is a serious issue you can even reverse the seasons (go south for the summer and north for the winter). Although a radical thing to to do, you can get a rent for a fraction of in-season rates, while renting your opposite home out at high-season rates.
If you travel to the right place you might be able to get seasonal employment to help cover your costs.
You can be creative in many other ways. We know a surprisingly large number of retirees (particularly former military) who winter down south or summer out west in a large RV. The RV lifestyle, year-round or seasonal, can be inexpensive and fun too. Many people live on a boat for part of the year.
Spending a season in an international country can be another way to stretch your budget. Numerous communities in Mexico and South America offer a very low cost of living as well as a safe setting for expatriates.
On the Down Side
The 2 home lifestyle is definitely not for everybody. Moving away permanently from where you live now means saying goodbye to most of your friends and ties to the community. The costs for owning 2 homes will be higher than 1 – there is no escaping dual costs for insurance, utilities, taxes, and maintenance (although they can be mitigated by renting one or both out when you are not there). The hassle factor is not insignificant either. You have to worry about two places instead of one, which means someone to watch over your property and arrange for maintenance. Twice a year (or more), you’ll have to close down one place, pack up, and move to another. That involves many chores, and once in the new spot, you will inevitably find that something you really need is 1000 miles away. As your editor’s dear wife says, “You are always missing one place when you are in the other.”
Another factor is the interruption to daily life. If you are an active volunteer with a key role to play in an organization, that will be very hard to maintain if you are away for months at a time. Likewise it is hard to get involved in a new community if your presence is not continuous. This drawback, if not addressed, can make you feel rootless.
Almost all the people we know who have retired to 2 or more places are very happy about that lifestyle. They relish the variety and stimulation it adds to their life from new friends and experiences. The cost can be a significant, but not insurmountable hurdle. And, particularly for snowbirds, there is no greater joy than reading about a whopping snowstorm instead of being there shoveling out the driveway.
For further reference:
Snowbird’s Leaving for the Winter Checklist
Our Ideal Snowbird Pairings
How to Find an Affordable Retirement
Budget Strapped Parks Trade Retirees Work for Rent
How to Retire in Style and on a Budget
What do you think? Please share your perspective and experiences about this topic. Have you tried it and loved it – or not so much? What makes a good pair of places to retire? Let us know!