Relocating in Retirement: A Checklist
Some friends of ours recently came to visit us from our old hometown in New York. They recently retired (in part because of Covid). He was a lawyer, she worked for a construction company — and they’re now thinking about relocating to live out their Retirement years.
They’re considering Moving to our part of Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia, for many of the same reasons we moved here: lower taxes and cost-of-living than New York or New Jersey, but still in the familiar territory of the Northeast, with like-minded people, and close enough to occasionally drive “home” to see old friends. There are also plenty of cultural opportunities, a temperate climate, and we’re near highways and a major airport so we can travel when we want to.
But our friends have other ideas too. They’re considering Florida where one of their neighbors moved a few years ago. They’re thinking about the Carolinas because they’ve heard good things about that part of the world. They’re considering Colorado since they have a son living in Denver.
Anyway, they were looking to us for advice. And so we came up with a kind of checklist for things to consider when scouting out a place to relocate after you retire. This is our checklist. Maybe you have some other items to suggest, items we may have missed.
Cost of living. This one’s obvious, especially if you come from a high-cost state like New York or California. Check the tax situation. Does the state tax Social Security, pensions, IRA or 401K distributions? Check out cost of housing, including real-estate taxes. Take a look at what gas prices are. And consider if there are additional expenses that go along with a new location — travel, for example, if you’ll need money to go see far-flung friends or family.
Children and grandchildren. Some people move to be near their kids and grandkids. But this is a tricky situation, because your kids might be Moving themselves for a new job or some other reason. Our friends don’t have grandchildren yet. Still, they’re considering Denver. But their son is in his late 20s. How long before he moves for a new job or a new girlfriend?
Access to medical care. Is there a hospital nearby? A good medical practice that is available to you through your health insurance? Also ask around for a good dentist.
Know the community. If you’re a coastal liberal will you be happy living in the conservative South? If you’re used to city living, will you really be happy in the country? Maybe you’re thinking, oh, the winters in Maine, or the summers in Florida, I can handle them. But you ought to try it out before you make a permanent move. I know people who moved to Florida, only to move back north because they could not abide the summers. I know one couple that did the opposite. They retired to upstate New York, near Lake Champlain, then moved to Sarasota, Florida, after experiencing one long, cold winter.
Rent or buy? Do you want the responsibility of homeownership, or the convenience of renting … but then also the worry about rising rents? No matter where you move, don’t neglect to consider how you’re going to live there as you get older. Will you be able to handle steps? Are there easily accessible bathrooms, easy-to-open doors, plenty of lighting? Would you consider a 55+ community?
How will you make friends? There’s a reason why many people retire to a place where they have family or friends. You know someone right away; and they often provide an entree into a social circle. But beyond that, are there opportunities to find interesting people and make new friends?
Extracurricular activities. If you like biking, make sure there are biking trails. If you’re a fisherman check out the local waterways. If you’re a culture vulture, check to see if there are theaters, museums, music venues, libraries, adult-education classes. Also, scope out volunteer (or part-time employment) opportunities. Even after you’ve retired you need something to do, something to engage your interest — some reason to get out of bed in the morning.
Remember, the grass is not always greener. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we have to. There’s no law that says we have to relocate after we retire, and sometimes — especially if we have family and friends in the area, and we can afford to live there — staying in our same home is the best thing to do.
So last we heard . . . our friends just sold their house in New York. They’ve rented a townhouse outside of Raleigh, NC, for a year. Then they’ll see if they want to stay, or move on to Florida, or Denver, or back to Philadelphia.