Should You Relocate in Retirement?

Many seniors choose to retire where they spent their working years. But a large chunk also opt to pack up and relocate someplace else — perhaps a warmer or more affordable locale. If you're thinking of relocating in retirement, you'll need to answer these key questions first.

1. Do my reasons for moving hold up?

Most seniors don't move "just because." If you're contemplating relocation, there's probably a reason — but you'll need to make sure your destination aligns with that goal.

Say you're thinking of relocating to save money on living costs. You might manage to find a new city with lower housing prices, goods, and services. But will you incur other costs in the course of that move? For example, if you go from a state with no or low income taxes to one with a higher local tax burden, you could lose money in some regards. Similarly, some states tax Social Security benefits, and if you expect yours to be a substantial source of retirement income, that's something to consider as well.

Meanwhile, if your goal in relocating is to avoid cold winters, make sure you can deal with those warmer climates year-round. Many states with relatively warm winters experience scorching-hot summers, which may not be easy to handle when you're older.

The point, therefore, is to make sure your reason for moving actually holds up before finalizing that decision. The last thing you want to do is relocate to save money, only to incur other costs that wipe out much of that savings. And you don't necessarily want to trade harsh winters for unbearable summers.

2. Will I have family or a support system nearby?

If you've lived in the same place for a long time, chances are, you have people close by whom you can rely on in a pinch, whether it's family, friends, or neighbors. But relocating could mean giving up all of that, which could impact you logistically and emotionally as a retiree.

Before you make that move, figure out whether you'll have access to trusted people in your life, and if the answer is "no," decide how you feel about that. Remember, as you age, you may become more reliant on other people's help to do things like maintain your home and get around town. And if you don't have anyone on hand to fill that role, you might struggle down the line.

3. Will I have access to the amenities I need?

Once you retire, you're apt to have more free time on your hands, so it's important to live someplace where you have access to things like parks, museums, and entertainment. Similarly, seniors tend to have more medical issues than their younger counterparts, so it's crucial that the place you relocate to has a strong local healthcare network with easy access to a wide range of providers.

Try it out before you move

Regardless of where you're thinking of relocating to, it's imperative that you try out that area for a period of time before deciding to make it your permanent place of residence. This especially holds true if you're planning to sell your current home and buy one immediately in your new locale.

You might think a given city will be totally convenient, what with its network of buses and trains, only to learn that public transportation is actually quite unreliable. Or, you might find yourself drawn to a city's walkable downtown area, only to discover that living close to shops and restaurants is prohibitively expensive. The point, therefore, is to not just do research, but actually spend a substantial amount of time in the place you're thinking of retiring to before officially declaring it your home. The last thing you want to do is incur the cost of moving someplace new, only to learn that it's not actually the right place to spend your senior years.

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