Dear Savvy Senior: My husband and I will both be retiring in a few years and are interested in relocating to a warmer climate but could use some help. What resources can you recommend for locating and researching good places to retire in the U.S.? — Retiring at 65
Dear Retiring: Like millions of other baby boomers, if you’re interested in relocating when you retire, there are a wide variety of books and online resources that can help you find and research a new location that meet your wants, needs and budget. Here are several tips to help you get started.
Where to retire?
If you’re at the beginning of your search, a good starting point is to take the “Find Your Best Place” retirement quiz at Sperling’s Best Places (BestPlaces.net/fybp). This free quiz asks 10 questions about your preferences, such as climate, recreation, community size and more, then suggests possible destinations based on your answers. MarketWatch also has a new matchmaking tool called “Where’s the best place for me to retire?” at MarketWatch.com/ graphics/best-place-to- retire.
Media resources such as U.S. News & World Report, Kiplinger’s, Forbes and Money Magazine also publish “best places to retire” lists on their websites each year. And be sure to check out Milken’s “Best Cities for Successful Aging” (Success fulAging.MilkenInstitute.org), which ranks 381 U.S. metropolitan areas based on factors that are important to older adults.
You should also consider getting a copy of “America’s 100 Best Places to Retire” (sixth-edition of the book; $25 at Amazon.com), which looks at a range of destinations and groups some in categories like best college towns, mountain towns, undiscovered towns and Main Street towns.
Once you find a few areas that interest you, your next step is to research them. Here are some important considerations to investigate.
>> Cost of living: Can you afford to live comfortably in the location where you want to retire? Numbeo.com and BestPlaces.net offer tools to compare the cost of living of your current location and where you would like to move. They compare housing costs, food, utilities, transportation and more.
>> Taxes: Some states are more tax-friendly than others. If you’re planning to move to another state, Kiplinger’s has a tax guide for retirees at Kiplinger.com/links/retireetaxmap that lets you find and compare taxes state by state. It covers income taxes, sales tax, taxes on retirement income, Social Security benefits taxes, property taxes and inheritance and estate taxes.
>> Crime rate: To evaluate how safe a community or area is, websites like AreaVibes.com provide crime data for some localities.
>> Climate: To research the climate in the areas you’re interested in moving to, Sperling’s Best Places is again a great resource that offers a climate and weather comparison tool at BestPlaces.net/climate.
>> Health care: Does the area you want to relocate to have easy access to good health care? To locate and research doctors and hospitals in a new area, use Medicare’s comparison tool at Medicare.gov/care-compare. Also see Healthgrades.com, which provides detailed information on U.S. hospitals and doctors.
>> Transportation: If you plan to travel much, or expect frequent visits from your kids or grandkids, convenient access to an airport or train station is a nice advantage. You should also investigate alternative transportation options, since most retirees give up driving in their 80s. Visit RidesIn Sight.org, a free website that provides information about senior transportation options in local communities throughout the U.S.
Once you have narrowed down your choices to two or three, spend a couple of weeks in each location at different times of the year so you can get a feel for the seasonal weather changes, then carefully weigh the pros and cons of living there. You might find that you like the area more as a vacation spot than a year-round residence. It’s also a good idea to rent for a year before buying a home or making a commitment to a retirement community.
Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.