Tips for Picking an Affordable Place to Retire
Relocating to a low-cost retirement spot could improve your retirement finances
Many people are interested in saving money by moving to a place with a lower cost of living than where they currently live. But you also need to make sure there are enough amenities and services to support you as you age. Here are some tips for selecting an ideal retirement locale.
Test it out.
Plan to make several visits to a city before you buy property, or even rent for the first year. Visit during different seasons to get a feel for how the locals live. "Go and spend a month at a place that you are considering, and go there during the worst time of the year," says Fred Brock. "My wife and I came and spent a month in Phoenix in June. If I were going to go to Vermont, I would go and see it in February."
Locate new medical facilities.
Make sure any potential retirement spot has adequate medical facilities and doctors who specialize in any conditions you have or that run in your family. "A major metro area is going to have major oncology and cardiac care centers that you won't find elsewhere," says Bert Sperling, founder of BestPlaces.net. Even if you don't have any health problems, it can be useful to live near a highly-rated hospital in case problems develop later.
Reconfigure your tax bill.
Tax rates vary considerably from state to state. Seven states have no income tax, while five others lack a sales tax. The tax treatment of Social Security and pension benefits also varies by state. If you are considering several retirement spots based on affordability, it's worth looking at how your retirement income sources will be taxed.
Consider how you will get around if you don't want to drive or become unable. Examine the cost and quality of the local public transportation system and how easy it is to get around without a car. "At our age, you have to think ahead about when you might be more limited in your ability to get around, and Milwaukee is great for that," says Barbara DeCoursey, 58, a retiree who moved to Milwaukee from Chicago . She and her husband, Albert, chose a downtown condo so they would be close to everything they need. Some cities provide free or low-cost taxi or van services for seniors.
Access to an airport.
If you plan to travel long distances during your retirement years, you will need access to a nearby airport or train station. "I don't think most people want to live more than an hour-and-a-half form a major airport. Otherwise air travel becomes very difficult," says Brock.
Proximity to family.
Consider how much time you want to spend with your children and grandchildren in retirement. Living near relatives can be extremely helpful as you age, if they are willing to help with lawn care or household chores. Also weigh whether you are ready to walk away from your social network of friends and associates and start over in a new place.
Consider the economy.
If you need or want to work during your retirement years, you need to choose a retirement spot where you will be able to find a job. But even if you plan to permanently exit the workforce, it's a good idea to pick a retirement spot where the economy is at least fairly strong. "Unemployment is like a cancer that affects the whole community, including services you enjoy and take for granted such as police and parks and services for the poor and elderly," says Sperling. "You don't want to be the only person who is well off in a community where everyone else is suffering."
Low-cost things to do.
Some people end up spending more money in retirement than they did while working, if they take up expensive hobbies. Make sure a retirement locale has free or low-cost facilities for things you enjoy doing, such as parks and open spaces, walking and biking trails, and access to lakes and waterways. College towns often provide access to world-class speakers, musicians, and performers, while also having a low cost of living.
It's tempting to move to a retirement spot where you will never need to shovel snow or defrost your car. But before you move, make sure you can stand the heat. You don't want to simply replace large heating bills with even larger cooling bills.
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Personal Finance - Tips for Picking an Affordable Place to Retire
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