Retirement! Certainly, the word paints different pictures in different minds. For some, it bodes fishing; others look to crafts and hobbies, travel, volunteer opportunities, golf or other activities. Some may want to try a new kind of job or business, or actively support a charity. Obviously, there are many decisions to be made, including where to live. According to a poll commissioned by the AARP, more than eight out of ten people 55 and older want to continue residing in their present house.
Asking yourself the right questions
If that is your choice, will you remain there year-round? Or do you plan to join the parade of snowbirds wintering in south Texas, Arizona, Florida, California or even Mexico? Or perhaps you live in a southern climate and prefer to enjoy a cooler summer somewhere north!
Are you considering a permanent move, perhaps for a change of climate or to be near children or other family members?
Is there a group of friends in a particular location?
Advance planning is clearly indicated
Correct answers to the many questions depend on a variety of factors and are not the same for everyone. A response to the possibilities may begin to shape your thinking several years before R-day approaches. Making decisions now about things seems rather vague and indefinite. However, very soon, it will be necessary.
In the future, the considerations separate into various degrees of priority. Look at all the elements and make informed choices.
Deciding where to live is only one part of retirement planning. There are financial, lifestyle and many other decisions to be made that are all interrelated. By all means, gather information from books, magazines, newspapers and other sources. Some publications have excellent and challenging articles on retirement sites.
Talk to friends who have vacationed or moved to the "target" areas. However, always consider what is best for you, not what friends or neighbors may prefer.
You may plan to move. The reason is simple: weather. You may want a milder climate, one where you can spend a lot of time outdoors without several months of snow and cold each year, or the alternative oppressive heat and humidity in the summer.
Many of the other qualities you may want are right where you have lived for many years - qualities such as affordable living, good health care, access to cultural attractions, and friendly people.
So, why not stay where you are and go away for part of the year? Some people are very happy doing that. However, many may prefer to live with their own things - the furniture, books, pictures and bric-a-brac that make a house into a home.
Also, leaving a house empty for an extended period means having someone available to check it regularly, to water the plants, to make sure the furnace has not quit, see that the snow is shoveled and handle emergencies.
For the present, be ready for an apartment or a condominium before seeking a "retirement community." Keep in mind, you may expect to remain active and prefer to live among people of varying ages.
Once the decision to move is made, it becomes a matter of where to live. Begin seeking the possibilities. The local library is a good information source. Two books are especially useful:
"Places Rated Almanac" and "Retirement Places Rated."
Both books can help evaluate and compare communities. Both include extensive information on climate, housing, health care, recreation, transportation, and other important subjects.
Talk with many people, of course, and read other information sources.
Using AAA Tour Books, suggestions from friends, the two Places Rated books, as well as other sources, compile a list of cities and areas to be studied further. Next, draft a letter soliciting information. The inquiry may pose many questions under such headings as climate and weather, cultural and recreational opportunities, health care, transportation, population, housing, economy, and education.
Send letters to the chambers of commerce (the local chamber should have a directory with addresses). They will bring a wealth of material to you by mail. You should not only hear from the chambers, but also from real estate agents, banks, homebuilders, churches, and others eager to help. Some communities offer videos to view.
It will be fairly easy to eliminate some places. Seek more information on a few and ultimately choose some to visit. Ideally, it would be better to spend several weeks or months on the scene checking out a potential retirement spot. If that is not practical, at least spend a few days investigating a possible location.
How many different locales visited is up to the individual. With luck, perhaps finding the ideal spot will come early. From then on, it is a matter of working and planning in order to reach that goal.
When visiting each potential site, check on the local tax structure, nearby industrialization and the zoning implications.
Visit senior centers and talk with local residents about how they like the city, the services, and the activities. Are there appropriate and nearby shopping and medical facilities?