How to Choose a Retirement Location

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.

So you and your spouse have decided to retire. At some point in your retirement planning, you must ask yourself where you would like to spend your Golden Years. The following questions and insight should place you on the right path for finding just the location that suits your needs.

First things first

The first question you must ask yourselves is if you want to stay in the home in which you are currently living or if you would like to move elsewhere. Retirement is a big step and sometimes people feel more secure staying in familiar surroundings because it makes the transition to your new lifestyle smoother. Others, for financial reasons, a change of pace, health reasons, or for better weather, want to relocate. In this case, the next decision you must make is if you want to stay in your home country or move overseas.

If you want to stay in your home country, then you must decide what sort of climate is most attractive to you. Do you want to experience the four seasons or have a more moderate, year-round climate? Do you like mountains or beaches? What size of city or town do you most enjoy? These several questions are very important because they will automatically exclude places you won’t need to research. Knowing what you prefer in climate, city size, and geographical configuration carries a lot of weight in terms of your happiness quotient.

Another thing to consider is that if you choose a town or small city: are there adequate medical facilities nearby? Larger cities tend to have a full range of medical care. Smaller towns generally have clinics and a variety of doctor’s offices, but perhaps not the equipment needed for complex medical situations.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Narrowing your search

How important are activities such as hiking, biking, sports and access to nature versus more city type activities such as theater, fine dining, bridge, mahjong, museums, concerts and art events? Would you like to live near a University so you have the energizing qualities of youth plus all the activities (and lower prices) that a university town offers?

Do you want to snowbird or travel part of the year? Are you willing to downsize your home if necessary to accomplish this style of retirement? Are you amenable to home exchange or house sitting to achieve these travel desires? Or do you want a traditional retirement community?

Would you consider a walkable city and getting rid of your vehicle, utilizing mass transport instead?

Asking yourself this range of questions narrows your search even further and defines a location that is well suited to your preferred style of retirement.

Cost of Living

No matter what size of town or city you find yourself choosing, another important factor is cost of living. There are many locations in the States that have a below average cost of living. Or perhaps average cost of living or higher will suit you just fine. Do any of these places fill your requirements for city size, weather, geographic beauty and medical facilities?

Know what you want

The more you as a couple can describe your requirements to be happy, the easier it is to find a retirement location which will fulfill your needs. Make a list of what is important to you and put these requirements in numerical order of importance. You might find that you must make concessions, but not necessarily so. If most of your requirements are fulfilled, then you have been successful in your search.

In making our own list of what we wanted in a retirement location, climate was a big consideration. We also like to have access to a variety of fresh food and dining options. We want to experience natural beauty and prefer large towns over big cities and to have an international airport within reasonable distance so that we can continue our travels easily. For the most part, we live overseas so having an active Expat community is significant. We also make use of Medical Tourism for our medical needs.

Lake Chapala, Mexico

Lake Chapala, Mexico

Moving overseas?

If you find that your retirement is underfunded, or if you enjoy travel and a bit of the exotic, those are good reasons to consider moving overseas for a retirement haven. Countries such as Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, and Guatemala are close to the States and Canada and are on similar time zones, so it’s easier to snowbird back to a home to visit children and grandchildren or to call them on Skype or Facetime. You may choose to live in these foreign locations full-time. These countries offer large cities and small towns, mountains or beaches and they all have active Expat communities. Excellent medical care is available also.

If you are considering moving overseas, then becoming familiar with Expat Forums is essential. These forums are free to join and will give you access to those who are already living in areas that attract you. Read threads on daily life, house rental, cost of living, visas, and residency permits or start your own thread with specific questions you want answered.

Testing the waters

Now that you have your list of requirements and you have narrowed your search it’s time to test the waters. Nothing replaces going to the location of your choice and seeing firsthand if it will work for you. If at all possible, rent an apartment or home in these locations for several months, hopefully several seasons, before you shell out money to purchase.

For instance, in an active adult community you will want to know if you like your neighbors, if there is enough social activity going on during season to keep you occupied, and if food shopping and dining options are close by. If you are moving overseas, you might be enthralled with the spring or autumn weather, but perhaps the rainy season doesn’t work for you, or the summers are too hot and humid. If you wait to purchase a home and rent something instead, you might find that you prefer the town just down the road rather than the one you are living in.

Allow yourself some time to observe and to adjust to your new location before you make any binding decisions. You won’t regret this, and it puts the power back into your hands.

For more information on relocating in retirement, take a look at our Relocation Page.