Retire to Where?


Some people equate retirement as their final chance to escape from where they live now. Other people plan to leave, but are not running from some place. They have methodically planned to relocate to a specific new place that appeals to them. Perhaps they wish to live close to a relative, or to be in a convenient location that has a slower lifestyle. In some cases, a favorite travel destination is where they want to live their golden days. Quite a number of folks intend to live exactly where they always have lived. The decision about where to retire can be emotional for those who want to make a change, but they cannot or have not planned to make it happen. Since retirement tends to occur when we are in late middle age or early senior age, many factors come into play to alter the plans of people who knew exactly where they wanted to retire and did plan for it. That is sad. You worked hard to earn a retirement. You were there all along for your family. Why shouldn’t you live a happy ending where you want to be? The implied answer is: You deserve it and you should do it. But without pragmatic consideration, the happy part could fade quickly even if you achieve your goal to relocate. Before you make the change, along with your wishes, identify your options. Rate your options. Then answer the question: Retire to where?

Why do you want to Move?

First, justify leaving the place where you live. Think about what you like about your current home. Write each like down on a single line, and leave space to rate each detail. Next, on a separate piece of paper, write the details down that you do not like about your current home. Create the two separate lists quickly as the thoughts come to mind. To help you start, think of topical areas like: cost, convenience, friendships, the weather, the traffic, medical care, public transportation, the value of your current home, the living conditions inside your home, the local real estate market conditions, the place where your deceased relatives are buried, where your favorite sports team(s) play, the utility of your local airport, the safety of your current neighborhood, the local educational opportunities, the level of your involvement with your local church, the level of dependency that you have on nearby relatives and friends, the availability of social services, the level of dependency that your relatives and friends have for care that you provide to them, and your local affiliation. Affiliation means that if you were born, raised, and currently live in Virginia, and you move to New York, will you always pine for Virginia? Will you regret ever leaving Virginia? After you have written down a full page or more of likes and a separate full page of dislikes, rate the importance of each detail. Select one (and only one) like as #1. Do the same for a dislike: Place #1 by the thing that you dislike the most about where you live. Next, place the #2 by the next three most important likes and dislikes. Those are the descriptions that you would have placed #1 if I let you do it. Place the #3 by anything else that you feel compelled to consider. Place the #4 by those items that are left that are goals, but not your essential requirements. In other words, if you relocated to a different place, the #4s would be a plus, but not a sufficient reason for you to move there. Everything else gets a #5, which means, you could drop those descriptions completely. They are only there because you thought of them as you crafted your lists.

Unfinished or Finished Business

Examine your #1s and #2s. Do you see a pattern? These are your drivers. Are you driving yourself to do more with your life or are you looking for comfort? Whichever answer that you give, ask yourself two questions:

1. Do I have enough money to sell, move, and buy a place to live somewhere else?
2. Will my (and my significant other) health (now and for the next ten plus years) support my relocation to another place?

Many of you will say No to at least one of those questions. Don’t let that stop you. In retirement, you have time to resolve problems as well as more time to do what you want to do. As you examine your options, realize that the available time enables you to improve your environment. If you cannot afford it or if your health is questionable, keep planning to relocate if that is what you want to do, but do something now to make your present home a livable place for a retiree. Example: Anticipate the need to configure your house for aging retirees to occupy by researching and spending some money to hire professionals to: Install a bedroom on the ground floor with doorway arches that will accommodate a wheel chair between bedroom to bathroom to kitchen to living room to back door. Install a deck with a wheel chair ramp in back of your house. Extend the driveway so that a vehicle can be placed at the terminus of the wheel chair ramp. Reconfigure the bathroom with a walk in shower or a walk in tub and the toilet to work better for someone in a wheel chair. Even if you don’t need these changes now, they will be there if you stay where you are in retirement. They will add value to your house if you decide later to sell and relocate. When these changes are done, consider your budget and plan more trips, both to enjoy travel in retirement and to check out places where you may want to relocate.

Off the Beaten Path

We all want retirement to be like being a kid again, free from school in the summertime. Three groups of retirees elect to keep their current home. Then, they abandon it for several months each year. The three groups are: Recreational Vehicle retirees, the sailboat retirees, and the snowbirds who have a vacation home somewhere else, usually in a warmer climate. Those retirees put one foot in the relocation option while they keep their other foot firmly planted where they currently live. But, suppose you want to cut the cord and relocate now, but you don’t have the money to relocate to the interesting place that you selected. If you cannot live at that place, perhaps you can live nearer to it and go see it more often. Have you ever heard of Bennettsville, South Carolina? Probably not. Would you like to live in a three bedroom house near a 300 acre lake? Maybe. How would you feel about being able to buy the house for $60,000? Would that idea sound better when you know that the town has a good hospital, banking, groceries, and restaurants? It is located forty minutes from good airports, mall shopping, and about an hour-and-a-half from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina’s famed Grand Strand! Perhaps Myrtle Beach was your original planned retirement destination. But, you did not have the money to move there. The point is that nearer might be good enough. Expand your search to include small towns near the ideal spot where you want to relocate.

The Care Giver

This situation applies to question #2. When one family member suffers from an enduring illness/injury, often another family member becomes that person’s primary care giver. Retirees in this situation face uncertainty. Most of them default to remaining where they are because they perceive that the ill/injured person’s needs require that. However, the most important person in that mix is the care giver. That person must have hope and get breaks from the physically and mentally draining task of care giving. It this does not happen, the care giver will fail. It is only a matter of time. For people in this situation, it will be vastly cheaper to configure the current home and remain there during retirement. Most important, the care giver has the best option of having breaks in the task by drawing on local help from people met during a lifetime of work and living in the current location. It is the care giver that must put one foot somewhere else now and then.


Mostly, it will come down to your retirement savings and income plus your health. Plan your options and your means. Stick to your plan. Enjoy retirement, wherever you go.


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