"For better or worse, we are what we learned as children." -- Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Saturday, July 23, 2022

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.


gigi-hawaii said...

I lived in NYC for more than 5 years, and loved the culture and arts. Since 1975, I have lived in Hawaii, my home state, where I was born and raised. I like being with family. So, no regrets. Family seals the deal for me, not friends.

Wisewebwoman said...

That's a really good summary Tom. I've always been a firm believer in Pro and Con lists. Especially when it came time to move out here. I was lucky enough that I could afford to carry both places for a while, Toronto and Newfoundland so I could be sure of this drastic move. I( loved Toronto, I am culture vulture, my family was there and in Ireland but I felt the call of the sea so strongly and knew I would want to retire by the sea.
Interestingly my daughter has moved here too now and is thrilled with her life. Granddaughter is considering it as she and her partner stayed here for quite a length of time last year and can work remotely. And her partner's parents have just retired here. So sometimes family follows the retiree. Much to my joy.


ApacheDug said...

It will be interesting to see if your friends stay in Raleigh, we used to visit Mom's family there and it is beautiful. I always thought if I did relocate, it'd be some place like Raleigh or Charleston SC where we also have family. But to be honest, I am hugely fond of Pittsburgh. I moved here in the mid 80s for school and work, tried to move back home 36 years later only to realize Pittsburgh was my home. I don't see myself ever leaving.

Tom said...

Wisewoman, that's hitting the jackpot! Your family follows you to your dream place to live! Doug, you're proving the point: the grass is not always greener.

Kay said...

The price of housing is awful in Hawaii. I do wonder about ourselves because we do have a LOT of steps. For now, it's exercise. Later? I don't know. Our son and family are off to Sri Lanka right now for daughter-in-law's job for a few years. Our daughter says they could move once our granddaughter is out of the house. Hawaii does have milder climate. People are open and friendly. Drivers are not so good... that's true. We had good friends in Illinois and hated leaving them, but we have friends here too. Your checklist made me really think about our future. Gosh... I don't know. I think your friends are wise to try out an area for a year to see how they like it before they commit.

Arkansas Patti said...

Excellent checklist, could have used it when I relocated to Arkansas. Testing out areas is a good idea. I moved to get away from hurricanes but I have never had hotter summers than I have experienced here. Still don't really regret my move but wish I had stayed more flexible and not bought a home. That does tie you to the area.

DUTA said...

The best plan seems to be staying close to family or part of it, and investing thought and energy in finding out how to make daily life easy and simple in its third phase.
Friends, hobbies, travel come secondary as these are big energy spenders which leave little or no energy to deal with the main concern - our body's needs and ailments.

Olga said...

That is a comprehensive checklist. I am trying to decide to make Florida my home -- I have spent a lot of time there, I have many friends there and activities that are important to me. Hate the political atmosphere. But I also already have a place to live there.

Rob J said...

Good one. I can relate a bit to this post as I am from WNY and have lived in PA and FL before, coincidentally, moving near Raleigh, NC where I have been for 18 years, now semi-retired. My wife and travel to visit relatives and friends all over the country and this works great for us even though we have considered relocating. One comment on the post about the "conservative South"-that's a big generalization that may not apply to specific locations. For example, NC, like a number of states, is conservative in rural areas, more liberal in cities and "purple" in the 'burbs. My wife and I live in the burbs of Raleigh but enjoy visiting all areas of the state. It's a good practice, I think, to do what these folks are doing and test out areas by renting and see if they "connect".

Diane Stringam Tolley said...

Husby and I have considered a move. But five of our six children and ALL of our grandchildren live right here in this town. We're all within 3 minutes of each other. (Nine of us spent last evening in the yard outside battling mosquitoes and each other in an epic card game!) We've decided family tips the balance. (But we may revisit the topic sometime in the upcoming and inevitable long-cold-winter...)

Linda Myers said...

So far, we're good with six months in Tucson and six in Seattle. We love Tucson except for the summer, and we love Seattle except for the winter and our steep driveway, plus four of our children live in this area. For now, we're postponing a decision on next steps.

Laurie Stone said...

All good questions. I think a cultural shift -- moving from the East coast to the south -- would be too big a chasm for me. So many things to consider.

Rebecca Olkowski said...

I've moved many times but have been in Los Angeles since the mid-70s. It's crazy expensive but I can't imagine living anywhere else. My family is spread out all over the country. It would be tempting if we were all in the area but that isn't to be. Happily, I'm in a perfect situation where I'm living. Right now I'm petsitting in Napa and there are opportunities to do that just about anywhere in the world for a change of scenery.

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hi Tom,

Like everyone else said this is a good checklist with important things to consider. In fact, I think anyone anywhere should got through you list and answer those questions before even thinking about a move anywhere. I'm over in Europe now and there are a number of people "talking" about moving here to retirement but unless they can answer those questions in a good way it might not be a good decision. Much better to "rent" and think those things through before taking the leap! ~Kathy