How to Decide Where to Retire

My husband retired a couple years ago and we’ve been on the hunt for where to live ever since. We bought a trailer to see the sights but mostly to visit towns and see what we liked. To be honest, we have spent more travel time vacationing in our trailer, but we do consider every town for it’s potential.

As background, the shoreline at Lake Tahoe

Here are a few important things we’re keeping in mind as we look for the “perfect” place to retire if such a place exists.

Proximity to good medical care

The older we get, the more likely we will require medical care so it needs to be top notch and easily accessible. Living in a remote place with a podunk clinic that may necessitate being medevaced out for emergencies, is not our idea of smart.

Accessibility to big box stores

We buy many of our staples at Costco, Target and other big box stores. It saves money and makes life easy. Living too far from those stores means we will pay more for what we need and settle for less than what we want.

Crime rate

The older we get the more vulnerable we become so the crime rate is important. I don’t want to feel unsafe heading for my car in the evening when leaving a grocery store.

Climate

The older we get the less tolerant we are of weather fluctuations. Extreme heat, high humidity, freezing rain and constant clouds are not our idea of fun. A temperate climate without massive swings in temperature is high on our list. That said, we do love the change of seasons.

Cost of living

Living on a fixed income that isn’t adjusted for increases in the cost of living mean we want to live where our dollar goes furthest. Traveling in our trailer we have seen gasoline swings as much as $2.00 a gallon!

Cultural and recreational resources

Our idea of retirement is not sitting on the couch watching endless hours of television so we want to live in a place with options for both entertainment and physical activity.

Proximity to family and loved ones

The older we get the more precious our time spent with loved ones becomes. Our daughter lives in Canada and our son lives in the Sacramento area. It would be so much simpler if they lived closer together.Jennifer Connolly of A Well Styled Life wearing Eric Javits hat at Lake Tahoe

We’ve visited quite a few small towns in the last 2 weeks and ruled most out because they didn’t meet enough of our criteria. It’s hard to say with certainty which of these is most important so we judge each location individually.

What do you think most important when deciding where to live in retirement?

Thanks for reading ladies and have a great day!

SHOP MY LOOKS

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117 Comments

  1. We are hoping to retire in two years, but may have to work longer due to finances. Our number one goal is to stay close to our children and grandchildren who live in the same town we live in. Our second goal is to to have access to good medical care and our third goal is to live in an area of town with a low crime rate. Summers are extremely hot where we live, but we are not willing to move away from our children for a better climate. We also don’t want to retire and sit at home watching television. We like to spend time with family and we want to be able to be able to afford to continue eating out a couple of times a week. We have a trailer and it is important to us that we can afford to maintain it and travel on monthly trips to the coast or mountains and take twice yearly longer trips to see National Parks. If one of our children move, we will stay in the town with our other child and grandchildren and use our trailer to visit the other child and grandchildren as often as possible.

    1. That sounds like a great plan Lori. We love traveling in our little trailer too so that needs to be worked into our budget.

  2. For me, friends and continued professional involvement are an important factor as well. I am retiring in stages – or as my friends and I say “it is preferment” – doing more of what you like to do and are good at. My husband and I love to travel and take trips with our kids, friends and family a few times a year. We also love being involved with our grandchildren and going to their games and activities. We are looking at selling our home and moving to a condo in the next couple of years – one floor living is very appealing. I think not taking anything for granted and being grateful for each day is so important to a happy retirement.

    1. You’re exactly right Katie! Each day is a blessing. I’m not against a condo but my husband is.

  3. Near a major airport (no more than ~ one hour travel time) is on our list. We currently live more than two hours out. Our friends and family are pretty scattered and the distance to the airport seems to add at least half a day to the time it takes to get to them.

    1. That’s a great point about the airport. We’ve always lived within an hour of one and hated the drive at that!

  4. Elizabeth Meinholdt says:

    Enjoy all your thoughts. My husband is 74 and I just turned 70. We own a home in Brenham, Tx. It is a two story home but we have everything we need on the bottom floor so we are good. We also own a farm about 35 mins away where we also have a home. We raise cattle with our children who also live close by so that is my husband’s outlet and all we need to do is to stop and get a few groceries and we can stay there is we want. I work 16 hrs. a week. The one thing we know that we won’t always be able to do is the yard care that a home requires. We are 45 minutes away from good doctors and hospitals. Although we do have fair care in our town but for anything major it is to go 45 minutes away. We have our church where we are both involved in things beside Sunday Services and friends here. Since I was sick at the end of last year made us think about our house which does not have handicap bathrooms but we have a plan that make that work with some minor renovations if necessary. Will I want to live in this big house if he were gone not sure about that. But will decide that when the time comes.

    1. Thanks for sharing Elizabeth! It sounds like you’ve got a fabulous plan. I do know any choice we make needs to be flexible so I won’t beat myself up about needing it to change.

  5. We are from Cincinnati, retired to Fl, adult community with a golf course for him, tennis for me. Your list is similar to ours. We live in a city full of theatres, art gallerys, concerts and restaurants. I unfortunately have needed medical care and I’ve had the absolute best. The one thing we found we just couldn’t meet on our list while having all our other wants was living near our 3 children. They are far spread from one another, they are vulnerable to transfers, they live in the cold! There are planes. I’m not one for long road trips. So that’s what we do. Another option is to rent a place near the kids for longer visits. A bonus living 15 minutes from the #1 beach in the US is the grandkids always want to come. We enjoy lots of family visitors. They hardest part is how fast the time is going – can’t seem to solve that one. This was a great move for us. Ben u years already. We are here until they have to come for us!

    1. I’m sorry to hear you’ve had medical challenges but that struggle is real for many of us as we ago. I love how you’ve decided what works best for you.

  6. Stormy Smith says:

    This is an issue I think about often. Our children/grandchildren are spread out all over the states, so there’s no chance of being near all of them. It also seems crazy to move somewhere in the middle of them where we don’t know anybody. So with the help of this post and other ideas in the comments, I will make my criteria list and see how it goes. We have moved several times in our marriage for my husband’s career and while it’s sometimes challenging, I think it’s also made me more independent, courageous and creative. I think the main thing is once you make your choice, to make it work.

    1. Thanks for sharing Stormy. I often need to refer to our list when we see something enticing that meets very few of them. It keeps me on track.

  7. Oh my gosh; my husband and I feel like we are alone in this quest. Thank you, Jennifer, for talking about it. We live in downtown Chicago, which is perfect in every way except for winter and cost of living – can we make it work? Don’t know. Our other options are Galveston or Las Cruces – both very very different. We can’t decide around where his kids might live – but I know he wants to be close to them. I want some travel time thrown in as well . . . I’ll think about it tomorrow. 😉

  8. We have children and grandchildren scattered up and down the east coast of the US and we see our early retirement years as seasonal migration! To faciliate the summers in Boston, the winters in Atlanta and spring/autumn in DC, we’ve “bought” a bedroom in each of their homes. Once we can no longer migrate, we’ve identified a community in Mexico where we can afford to live with assistance. So we’re learning Spanish now!

    1. Jackie S. Middleton says:

      Would love to know more about the Mexico option, Dorothy – where can I find info?

  9. I think your list is excellent but would give a weighted average to proximity to either of your children/grandchildren. You can’t replace time spent with them plus as you age, being close to an adult child will be a big help.

  10. I really appreciate your list, Jennifer. My husband & I are nearing retirement & are starting to think about where to live long term. In fact, we’re visiting Florida in September to check out a few areas to see if any of them appeal to us. We also have an RV, so we can plant ourselves in a spot for a while then move on if it doesn’t suit us.

    1. The RV is a perfect way to check places out! Getting to know a place before you jump into it seems really smart to me.

  11. I enjoyed this post and all of the comments. My husband and I live in a small town West Texas town, Seminole, near the New Mexico border. We are thinking about moving to a new area. I see appeal in a University town and my husband thinks he would enjoy close proximity to a lake for fishing. We are still looking and talking. It’s interesting to visit and see what’s out there.

    1. I’m loving these comments too Linda. I’m lucky to have a great group of smart, supportive readers.

  12. We went through the same thing when my husband retired 8 years ago, starting to think about it several years before his retirement. We ended up staying put and doing a lot of traveling. We are within short traveling distance of family and close friends and cherish the friends we’ve made during our 26 years here. There is no “perfect” place, but I hope you find the place that brings you the most joy. BTW, I’m in Waco, Texas, home to the “Fixer-Upper/Magnolia” folks.

    1. Beverly Glotzbach says:

      Stay or go and “Bloom” where you are!!!!

  13. J'Laine Bradley says:

    My husband and I are 55 and trying to make plans toward retirement. Our youngest just moved out and we are finally empty nesters. However, without a break we are now caring for my 83 year old mother. We are blessed that she only lives a couple miles away. Although she has worsening dementia and it looks like she won’t be able to stay alone much longer. We have changed our plans and are considering selling our home and moving in with her. That way we could save money, get our house sold and be ready to purchase another when we find the “perfect” place. Is any one else in this situation?

    1. That’s a tough spot J’Laine! What will you do when she needs more care than you can give her? These are such challenging times. Good luck!

  14. Beverly Glotzbach says:

    I loved reading your thought process about where you want to permanently “land” in retirement. We are about to do just that. The only point you made I have a bit of concern about is climate. We are moving from South Georgia (almost Florida) to Alabama. We will need a bit of warmer clothing. I grew up in Tennessee so I am familiar with the climate, but have lived in South Georgia for 30 years. However, I think being close to my daughter and granddaughters will be so worth it. We are trading hurricanes for tornados. (We are installing a tornado shelter!) And I am looking forward to having a change of seasons, which I have missed! All other comments you made, I feel we are right on point. My husband’s main requirement for retirement was he wanted a detached garage for his woodworking shop, so he will not be bored. I will have to look for a new church home and also want to join the YMCA so we can stay active and be around people our age on a regular basis. Our new neighborhood is a mix of ages, which I think I will like. Older people to form friendships with and younger people to keep my outlook young. Wish us luck, that our choice is on target. (P.S. My husband has been analyzing pros and cons for a couple of years)

    1. Beverly Glotzbach says:

      And yes! We are moving into a one story house with wide doorways for wheelchairs (which we might need someday) and a roll in shower and raised toilets!(all brick so low maintenance) It’s our old people house!

      1. Hi Beverly; it’s Kelly’s sister 🙂 Fancy meeting you here at Jennifer’s and how lovely. xoxo Scottie

      2. Beverly Glotzbach says:

        Hey! I see your posting with K. and L. Just visited that sweet granddaughter last weekend. B. is a hoot!!!! I hear about her adventures with K!

    2. Hi Beverly, I live in Montgomery, AL & have lived in Birmingham and Gulf Shores. We loved here to be close to family and now my husband just passed, I’m happy we made the move.
      What part of the state are you moving to?

      1. Beverly Glotzbach says:

        We are moving to Athens. (close to Huntsville). My daughter lives in Madison. My mother lives about an hour away in Tennessee.

  15. The comment about moving to a one story home is so right on!!!

  16. We thought about everything that you mentioned as criteria except we don’t have any children so that deleted that question. we had been vacationing in the area we chose to retire for about ten years. We knew what we were getting into moving to a very hot climate in Florida. When we got serious about moving here, we went to the local urban area (Tampa) and walked around the Hospital. Someone saw us and asked”can I help you” and it turned out to be the CEO of the entire Hospital! From her we got a lot of good information on how to find good doctors in the area! We are in a small community now but close enough to Tampa to be able to enjoy dining, shopping, and the theatre. The summer months are a challenge, but the rest of the year is delightful!

    1. It’s interesting you say this Linda. I often think our decision would be so much easier if we didn’t have children. I want to be in shooting distance of them which keeps us on the west coast.

  17. This is a great list and important to consider all these factors to enjoy a happy retirement life. However, I think you will find, like many, that being close to family is the most important. I know my parents moved to a location they considered perfect, but after a few years and a couple more grandchildren, they moved back. They still have friends and stay in touch, but family brought them back. Many people are lucky enough to have grandchildren close, but for those of us who don’t it’s difficult. GOOD LUCK! And thanks for sharing your list.

    1. Thanks for sharing Kathy! Family dynamics are all so different. Our hunt goes on as we weigh the options.

  18. Barbara Daley says:

    I love your list. Its perfect. Retired 8 yrs ago and at the time was living in a 2 family w my daughter and her family above me. For me the top of the list was family and cost. So I’ve stayed where I am and have loved it . I’m a nurse and continue to work some so I can travel. And I try to focus on the perks of getting older and not the negatives????

    1. That sounds like a perfect situation for you Barbara! Thinking positively brings more if it our way 😉

  19. To be quite honest, I have never quite understood why retirees pack up and move hundreds (or thousands) of miles away from their families, friends, dentists/doctors/accountants etc.

    1. It saddened me that my in-laws retired to Florida (we are in the Chicagoland area as were they) just before we had children. Once we had children we didn’t want to spend all of our vacation traveling to Florida plus they moved to an area without much for a family to do (their area didn’t even have a swimming pool or hotels close by when my kids were younger). Being on a fixed income, they only visited here 2-3 times over almost 30 years. When they entered their 80’s they became interested in knowing the kids and my FIL had a relationship with them via email and Facebook. When my FIL became ill we spent hundreds of dollars flying to be by his side and on hotels and when they passed away we didn’t ask the kids to take time away from college studies because they really didn’t know them. A regrettable experience.
      In contrast, my mother lives 4 hours away – a doable distance (and expense) and we drove there every 4-6 weeks (or more often) when they were younger and hung out with family. My kids remain close to their maternal grandmother and cousins and, in fact, are closest to their cousins who live 10 hours away but planned their “grandma-on-the-farm” visits to coordinate with ours.

      1. One never knows why people make the choices they do Margot. I do know we all live the the consequences of those decisions. That may be why I am weighing my options so carefully.

    2. I am with you. I live in Los Angeles and even with its biggest drawback-traffic, I love it. It so much the city but my friends, dentists, doctors etc. I am 78 and still go to the beach. It takes 15 minutes and now there is the option of the metro. I may just have to Uber more someday.

    3. I don’t know Susan. Perhaps the need for change and a fresh start? Or needling a less expensive location.

  20. Leslie Brodbeck says:

    You’re so lucky to be enjoying retirement. I think you’re doing it in the right way, no rash decisions and having fun along the way. My husband had a seizure three days into retirement and passed away five months later with a brain tumour. I sold my house because it was way too big for one person. I live in a townhouse condo and have been reasonably happy here. Now I’m finding it may be time to downsize even more and find a lovely apartment. Good luck in your quest.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear about your husband! Downsizing is high on my list too. Now if I could only convince my husband that condos are a great option!!

  21. Hi Jennifer. Your list is similar to mine but I’m doing it as a widow. I have one daughter here on Long Island but and hour away and another 5 hours away in Northern Virginia. Since I also have a strong group of friends I have decided to stay here on Long Island. The cost of living is higher for retirees but I believe I can find a reasonable community. Healthcare is excellent here too. My sister is a snowbird so I can visit her a few weeks in the winter. I believe everyone has to find the right mix for them but being close to my daughter and grandchildren is very important to me. Good luck with your journey!

    1. I love Long Island but do know how expensive it can be. Good friends are critical. Even more so when you’re single. It sounds like you’ve got the best case scenario Monica.

  22. Hi Jennifer, I’m not quite at that stage yet, but I’m thoroughly enjoying your search. Your criteria would be similar to us, as well as the comment above about a church that we feel called to and needed, as well as the other comment about a community willing to listen to our “not Gen X, Y, Millenial” voices. We live in Cincinnati now, where our 2 adult children and my parents currently live. The more I think about, the more I think about the person above that said they “go south for 6 weeks” in the winter. My husband’s parents moved to an active retirement community in Florida when they hit 55. They enjoyed it greatly, but now that they are 88 and 90 and moved back North they need to be near family. It was also very hard for them as they started out as the youngest in the community and watched all of their new friends pass away before them. I don’t know what’s easiest to be honest. I’m just enjoying your journey!

    1. I too live in Cincinnati, but found the city does not seem to meet the walkability criteria yet.. I have lived here for about 37 years and moving to an area in Columbus where I can walk to the grocery store, library, restaurants, hair stylists etc.

      1. Walkability is so important. I’ve never lived in a walkable place but want to now.

    2. That’s a tough one Amy. I sure don’t have a crystal ball but it would help. I think being close to our children when we’re that old makes perfect sense.

  23. What a wonderful list to consider. We settled on Ft Worth ,TX. Our five daughters are all over the country, but I have four sisters in the DFW area…and we love taking senior classes at TCU. We do escape the heat in the summer by heading to our mountain cabin in Colorado.

    1. That sounds like a great plan! A mountain cabin in Colorado sounds dreamy to me too.

  24. I have followed your post for a number of years and this is the 1st time to comment. My husband and I retired 10 years ago (early retirement). We moved to a major city (Chicago) for excitement, to be close to our children, for excellent medical care, and ability to have all within walking distance. The city has changed, crime has gotten worse, the taxes continued to increase, and we tired of the cold winters even though we would go south for a couple of months. This spring we sold our condo and moved to an island outside of Charleston. This is not a retirement community as we wanted to be surrounded by people of all ages. We are back to driving (big change), but we live on the ocean and can get everything we need and want by driving once again. Our children have a new place for vacation and we can go back to visit them. This was a perfect choice for us, but one that took over a year to make as we both had to be happy. Good luck with your decision and I think you will know when you find it as everything will feel right!

    1. Thanks for sharing with us Mollie. It’s good to know our decision needn’t be final and if we choose the wrong thing, we are free to make a change. I needed to hear that so thank you!

  25. I agree with your list. Number one is accessible health care. I work in senior care and I know what the future brings. I would add one storey housing.

    1. One floor living is on our list too but I could live without it if needed and the master bedroom was ground floor. Good, close medical is huge for me!!

  26. Sandy Andry says:

    I love your list. It’s more specific than I’ve ever been and it’s good to think about. Having a church close by that we enjoying attending and fits with our theological philosophy is important. Living in a community that has a pool, paved trails for biking and sidewalks for walking would also be on my list. For my husband it would be proximity to golf courses. We live in the Chicagoland area now and our two children and their families are close by. In the winter we travel to Florida for 6 weeks to escape the severe weather.

    1. Being a snowbird works for many folks. We don’t play golf but sure do enjoy living near it’s pretty green.

  27. We recently went through this same exercise. One thing we considered was diversity and inclusion. We wanted to know that we were going to live someplace where we our voice would be heard and respected. BTW – we settled on Gainesville, FL. It’s a small college town.

  28. Melissa R says:

    We are also thinking about and looking for the perfect retirement home.Big box stores are high on my list along with a quality grocery store. We live in a small town and I drive 45 minutes or more to these stores and nearest shopping. My husband wants to be in a golf community. We both have lived in the SE all our lives so weather is not a big issue. Family is an issue. This is a huge decision. I am not 100% on board. My husband could move tomorrow and never look back. Your post was very timely this morning!

    1. This decision can be costly if you get it wrong too because moving isn’t inexpensive! Good luck Melissa

  29. Barbara Sewell says:

    We found ourselves in your situation where our two children and their two children each live half a continent apart. Since we can’t be two places at once and we were already living relatively close to our daughter, we moved closer a year ago and couldn’t be happier with our decision. Fortunately, many things, including climate and amenities were the same so it didn’t take much adjusting. Much luck in finding your new spot.

  30. Lori Stewart says:

    I completely agree. Another one on my list is walkability. Can you walk to restaurants and shops.

    1. Hello Jennifer.
      I have stumbled upon your blog recently and am enjoying it, all the way from Adelaide South Australia. My husband and I are in our mid fifties, very active but starting to think along the lines that you are. Currently we have a future retirement property on a river in a coastal town about an hour south of Adelaide, but live in town. We plan to keep a modest house in the city in case we need to go back there for family and medical reasons. We might even find it too boring on the south coast! Adelaide isn’t a huge city, medical services are good and crime etc isn’t bad either…however I plan to follow your example and drive around the country checking out other places. Queensland is very popular with retirees as it is tropical so that could be an option. I agree with other comments saying it’s fine to reserve the right to change your mind. As you get older your ideas about what suits you may change.
      All the best,
      Gina

      1. Welcome, Gina and thanks for adding your voice to our conversation!!

    2. Not only restaurants and shops, I want to be able to travel to several choices of grocery stores, farmers markets, large shopping venues, doctors, salons, museums, monuments and public gardens, etc. Sounds like….Paris! I do spend a lot of time in France, but in the US , I live in the most French-influenced city….Washington,DC