Seems like everyone, from Forbes to U.S. News & World Report, to the AARP, has a list of the best places to retire.
Lists compile data and develop rankings based on such factors as housing affordability, transportation and health care. They are useful as you’re thinking through whether to stay in place, downsize or relocate. They can help you avoid what’s often a retirement mistake: Loving a place on vacation and choosing to live there, without understanding enough about it.
But what’s missing from the lists, or a data-driven approach, is “you.” Just as you look with new eyes at possible places to retire, it’s important to examine your own priorities and figure out what matters most to you.
As a first step, prioritize four broad factors, which people at or near retirement age often find make a big difference:
• proximity to friends and family
• health care
Cost can be a limiting factor, and thus should be high on your list. Make sure the place you retire won’t drain your savings. Likewise, health care, especially being close to the doctors and hospitals you trust, could outweigh many other considerations.
But the key to happiness in your later years is your relationships with family and friends, researchers have found. Your children might well lead your caregiving team when you need one.
Friends may be even more important than family when it comes to happiness. As people age, the link to happiness remains for people who report strong friendships, research shows. Give careful thought to whether the retirement home and the lifestyle you’re choosing for yourself will separate you or bring you closer to friends.
The AARP’s livability index allows you to rank factors, including housing, neighborhood, transportation, environment, health, engagement and opportunity., to take into account which are most important to you. State and local taxes may be very important, too.
Don’t forget to consider the invisibles that can make a big difference to your quality of life, like the amount of traffic, the quality of the air and water, and the speed and availability of broadband Internet.
Happiness in old age is less a matter of location and more a matter of choice. As you let go of unattainable goals and know yourself better, research shows that old age can be the happiest time of life, especially if you learn to savor relationships and new experiences. Generally speaking. college towns offer great combinations of affordability and the social elements that help keep you young at heart.
If you want to look at a list, U.S. News and World Report finds the top five places to retire in 2018 are:
Sarasota, Fla., because of the high overall happiness of its residents;
Lancaster, Pa., for its low retiree taxes and high-quality health care;
And San Antonio, Texas, where housing is affordable;
Grand Rapids, Mich., and El Paso, Texas, round out the top five.
A CFP® professional can help you think through the lifestyle you want as you age, and design a financial plan that gives you the most options as you approach your retirement years.