How to Scout Out Retirement Destinations

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It’s one of the most important decisions of a person’s golden years: where to retire. And for those who’ve lived in one place or region for a long time (perhaps even their entire lives), figuring out a new place to settle down can feel like a tall task. After all, it’s a significant decision, and one most retirees hope to only make once.

That’s why we’re breaking down the most vital aspects of scouting out retirement destinations and showcasing how to find the perfect spot to enjoy your golden years.

Determine Your Budget

For many retirees, money is the name of the game when it comes to figuring out a new landing spot. Sure, they might love to live in a sprawling beach house or chic downtown condo, but if their budget doesn’t support it, it won’t fly.

Consider all potential income sources, from social security or pensions to personal savings and retirement investments. Then, figure out expenses, focusing on areas that might change significantly as retirees age, like healthcare. 

It’s vital to be conservative to avoid running out of money if a retiree lives longer than expected or faces more significant expenses than planned. Before moving forward with scouting destinations, retirees should have a general range of their total budget, including things like utilities and food, which may vary from area to area. 

retirement planning

And don’t forget to factor in taxes! While retirees may not be paying typical income taxes anymore, different states can have very different laws on taxing retirement benefits or other investment withdrawals.

Low- or no-tax states are often popular among retirees because they can keep more of their money and don’t have to spend it on services they likely don’t use very often or ever, like schools. But be sure to research other costs of living which may be higher, like heating and cooling costs or food.

Figure Out Your Priorities For Retirement

Before going any further in the process, retirees need to be sure they actually do want to move! Many feel compelled to head somewhere new as they age, but some may prefer to stay right within their town or region, closer to the people and places they’ve always known.

In these cases, it’s still worth assessing their current home to determine whether it still meets their needs, wants, and future budget restrictions. Even if they decide to remain in town, they may prefer to downsize to a condo over a detached home.

Regardless of their choice, everyone has slightly different ideas about how they see their retired life. This is partly informed by their budget but also by their interests and skills. Some retirees may want to spend their time volunteering and giving back, while others may enjoy exploring nature and traveling the world. Some may be content to simply enjoy the slower pace of life. 

Future retirees should be as detailed as possible when sketching out how they see their average day and week playing out so they can consider all their needs. Some other critical things to consider are safety/crime, cost and access to healthcare, the ability to get around without a car (via walking or public transit), and, of course, the weather. The proximity to family and the presence of other older residents are also undoubtedly worth weighing.

Do Your Research

Now that retirees know what they’re looking for, it’s time to find some places that fit the bill! Retirees should start by listing potential destinations that interest them, ideally separated by state, region, or other geographical groups. It can be helpful to make a checklist or spreadsheet to easily and quickly reference how different places meet various needs or wants. 

There are a variety of resources would-be residents can check for information, such as directories of hospitals and doctors. Weather sites can provide details on what you can expect in each season, while real estate sites provide a general sense of the cost of housing. Naturally, this is also where retirees should flag things individually important to them, like nearby airports, natural spaces, or cultural spots

retired couple

With a good sense of their budget, needs, and desires, most folks should quickly eliminate some options and zero in on others. They may be surprised that one of their potential destinations instead leads them to a different locale that might fit them better. In any case, retirees should have their possible destinations down to a handful by the end of the research process. 

Go Check Them Out In Person

There’s no substitute for visiting a place in person, so it’s time to hit the road. Retirees should plan an in-person trip to their potential future home, ideally structuring the trip to visit several possibilities in the same region at once.

Choose the time of any trip carefully; would-be residents concerned about winter storms or summer heat should visit during that season to get a first-hand experience. More than one trip may be necessary to feel totally comfortable, which is normal for those considering uprooting their lives to relocate. 

During the visit, retirees should scout out potential neighborhoods, check out local restaurants and shopping, and otherwise try to experience it as a local, not a tourist. It’s also helpful to explore nearby areas (including by taking the back roads), which will not only give future residents a better sense of other towns but may potentially reveal another possible retirement destination they hadn’t previously discovered.

It can be helpful to take notes about various aspects to refer to later when making a final decision. 

A Little Retirement Scouting Can Go A Long Way

For current or soon-to-be retirees, figuring out a good place to call home is, without a doubt, one of the most vital things to enjoying their golden years. While it does take a bit of work, it shouldn’t feel overwhelming. Keep these important steps in mind, and there should be no trouble finding a perfect new home. 

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