February 2, 2020 — Special thanks to frequent contributor Ed Lafreniere of Retirementhumor.net for suggesting this topic (one of several he made in response to our “Most Popular Articles of 2020” article). The mistakes people make in choosing a place to retire is a topic that always generates great interest. The three part series on “Retirement Mistakes People Make” we ran a few years ago resulted in hundreds of Comments. We recommend the whole series (see links at end), but today’s article selects some of the most interesting and helpful comments from that series. We hope you find them useful.
Member Comments: Oh, the mistakes we made!
Here is a summary of what our members think are the biggest retirement mistakes you can make when it comes to choosing a place to retire (some of the comments tell how to avoid making a mistake):
Country noise. Upon retirement a few years ago from the Wash. DC area I decided to move to a more rural area in NC for some tranquility. I was drawn to my home by the beautiful views and scenic rolling landscape. However, after being here a year now I have found there is just as much “noise” here as in the city. I call it “country noise” from farmers plowing their fields, trucks without mufflers, neighbors mowing their 10 acre lots, and aircraft flying over my home. — Dale
Moved to be close to the children. This is a very common mistake for many (and not for others!) Sometimes you can be too close to the children, particularly if the relationship becomes strained or you feel you are being taken advantage of. The kids might have to move, leaving you stuck. Or, moving to an area that has appeal to the kids but just isn’t what you were looking for.
Didn’t really know the place. The hardest one is how to really know a place before committing to that area if you can’t/won’t rent first. Internet research is great but you absolutely must put eyes-on (and take off any preconceived blinders) before actually making a commitment. We just looked at a place while on a business trip, and while it looked fabulous online and in theory, the fact was that the nearest decent shopping was over the river and through the woods away! Fine if that’s what you want, but it isn’t for us. — Susan
Don’t neglect Universal design. Jan Cullinane suggested to be sure to look for universal design principles in our retirement homes. Door handles instead of knobs, no steps, accessible counter heights, stepless showers, etc. You never know when you might find your own home unsuitable for your physical capabilities. To Jan’s comments we would add that some houses just don’t make it easy to age in them. Uneven floor heights, upstairs master bedrooms, too tall counters, etc. can be very expensive and difficult to overcome.
Staying in your own home can be a great idea, particularly if you live in a town or city with a lot to offer. It costs a lot to move and if you don’t plan wisely, it can’t turn out badly, and then you are looking at another move. I have met a number of folks who left a good town in search of “the right community” only to end up bouncing around from place to place and never being happy. A very sad thing to see. — Tom F
We didn’t really think that the weather would be that bad. Stupid us! It gets pretty hot and sticky in most parts of the country during the summer and there are mosquitoes too. BUT when you can’t enjoy the patio or backyard for MOST of the summer then that’s a big much. I absolutely agree with the comments about renting and/or staying for several weeks on successive vacations to the area where you are considering a relocation. We do know we will not buy again. Thats because we don’t want the expense that comes with home ownership (taxes, house insurance, maintaining it, fixing big tickets items like roof, air conditioning, etc.). — Sheila
Missing the familiar. My closest friend said she wishes they had never moved. Reason: she and her husband miss the familiar. They are living in Hampton Cove, AL, a somewhat upscale area outside of Huntsville. She loves the housing, the people have been friendly but says she ” it’s just not the same’. She misses familiar sites, definitely misses the seasons, the proximity to the coast, the ability to go to either the Red Sox or Yankee games — Anne
Rent first. I agree with the folks here who point out the need to check into the political, social, and cultural aspects of affordable retirement places, as well as their economic clime. Let me stress how important it is to do a trial run on any place you are considering for a future home. A month or two renting in that area, while holding off a final decision, is really money saved when compared to a bad move. — Dr. Judith
Visit! So listen to what people say and then visit! No substitute for visiting. I thought I would like Florida till I spent a week there last year. Not so much. Visit! — Ginger
Everything is so far away! I also miss the variety the east and west coast provide….you can drive a few hours and get to others states…..but in Texas it takes a day or more to even get to another state and change of scenery. — Linda
Top problems to avoid. We’ve had over 30 moves (due to the line of work we’ve been part of) in 45+ years of marriage. Our roots are pretty shallow and are now looking for a happy, safe place to perhaps settle for a while. One thing I’ve learned is that no place is perfect so choose as well as you can, and then work on your own attitude. Learn to appreciate the good things available to you wherever you are. High crime rate, bad tax structure, no good libraries, lack of good, available medical care, need to drive too far for basics… those are problems tops on my list to try and avoid as much as possible. Following where kids are is problematic because they have lives to live and may move themselves. I want to provide a place, and an atmosphere, where they’ll want to come see us when they can and not feel smothered or bored. — Susan14
As you can see there are plenty of potential problems that can wreak havoc with your choice of where to retire. Common sense, planning, and time on the ground can help you avoid most of them. We would love to hear what kind of issues you might see or have had in your retirement process. Please share them in the Comments section below.
This article is a follow-up to a 3 part series: Part 1, the Top 10 Retirement Mistakes. Part 2, 10 Retirement Mistakes You Don;t Want to Make. Part 3, Avoid These 6 Retirement-Wrecking Mistakes. The articles continue to generate extremely interesting tips and insights, which we recommend reading.