How to Pick the Best Place to Live in Retirement

An older couple walking among the woods, they may live near a forest in their retirement.

When you retire you may have the opportunity to live somewhere new. But choosing the right destination requires a little research on how a new area will affect your lifestyle and well-being. Here are 5 tips to help you find the best place to live out your golden years.

Think About the Cost of Living

When you’re looking for a place to live in retirement, a big consideration should be affordability. You want to know how far your money will go for housing, groceries, healthcare, transportation and entertainment. A widely accepted rule-of-thumb is that you’ll need to replace 70% to 90% of your working income to maintain your standard of living in retirement. That percentage may vary depending on when you retire, where you decide to live, when you start taking Social Security, etc.

When determining the cost of living, consider how you want to spend your time and then calculate the costs for the kind of lifestyle you’d like.

This recent study by The Motley Fool is also a good resource. It breaks down the most affordable states for retirees.

Determine the Kind of Climate You Like

If you like mountains, a place in the southwest like Colorado or New Mexico might be a good fit for you. If you’re looking for a warm area with beaches, you may consider moving to the coast of California or a southern state like Florida. Everyone has different tastes when it comes to climate. Moving to a place with weather you prefer will help you stay active and involved, and you’ll enjoy retirement more. The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) offers an interactive Climate Data Online Search tool that lets you look up past weather and climate data for specific areas, so you can get an idea of what to expect. 

Evaluate the Tax Rules

Each state has different rules on how retiree income and social security is taxed, so it’s important to take a look at the regulations and figure out what you’ll need to pay in retirement. Certain states, for example, tax Social Security income. Some have no income tax at all.

Property taxes and sales taxes can also affect your retirement. They are drastically different between states, but many offer but exemptions that allow seniors to protect part of their home’s value from property taxes. Be sure to take the time to find out exactly how state and local taxes can affect your retirement destination.

Research the Availability of Healthcare Services

Now that you’re in your golden years, you want to make sure you retire to an area that has quality medical care, and local doctors and hospitals who accept Medicare patients. The U.S. government offers an online tool that can help you locate doctors and long-term care facilities across the country. 

Explore Potential Retirement Places

Get up to speed on the retirement areas you are considering. Most towns have a visitors’ bureau available online that will give you information about the town history, population, quality of life and what kinds of things there are to do. 

Niche is a great resource as well. The website allows you to explore the best cities to retire in the U.S. based on number of retirees, weather, and access to healthcare and entertainment. The rankings and information is based on data from the U.S. Census, FBI, CDC, and other data sources. The site also has a customized search function.

Before you make a final commitment to live in a place, take the time to visit all the areas on your “maybe” list. Make sure to visit neighborhoods in each area and talk to people who live there. It’s also a good idea to meet with realtors to find out how much homes cost in the areas you’re interested in, and to ask general questions. 

You should go to a potential location on your list a few times to determine whether or not it would be a good fit for you. Carefully consider the pros and cons of each location. When you visit, travel there at least once when the weather is the worst, so you can see what to expect as a resident.

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