You’ve heard the adage that when it comes to buying real estate, the three most important factors are location, location, and location. This is largely true if you are purchasing a home or other property, but it is also applicable when thinking about your retirement location.
Where do you envision you will live as you grow older? At the beach? In the mountains? Seattle? Ireland? In your current house? When considering where you would like to live as you age, the sky is the limit (and who knows, even that may not be out of the question some day!). But there also are some important factors you should think about when choosing your retirement location.
Cost of living
Most retirees have a fixed amount of monthly income, so it is important to consider what it will cost to live in your desired retirement location. For example, San Francisco is a beautiful and vibrant city, but it has some of the most expensive housing in the country making it cost-prohibitive for many people.
Included in your cost of living are your taxes. Tax laws vary widely from state to state, so you will want to understand exactly how/if your desired state taxes things like Social Security income (these 13 states DO tax Social Security benefits), investment account distributions, and potentially income from a pension. For example, Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming DO NOT have a state income tax, so you won’t be taxed on your account distributions or other income.
You can check out other states’ tax laws here. Don’t forget to also take into account property taxes and sales taxes, which are higher in some states than in others.
>> Related: Taking Advantage of the Tax Benefits of CCRCs
In the brief survey I conducted a few weeks ago regarding our blog readers’ senior living insights, one of the recurring themes of their responses was around accessibility. Several of the seniors who responded to the survey noted that it was imperative that senior living communities of the future have easy access to nearby venues (like restaurants, shopping, or healthcare) and entertainment.
Specifically, “walkability” was mentioned by several survey respondents and is a hot topic right now in many cities. You can check the Walk Score of areas you’re considering to find a place where you can easily get around on foot. Bike-friendly communities are increasing in number, and more and more cities also are focusing on better public transportation. If you hope to do a lot of travelling in your retirement, it is also worth considering the airport and interstate accessibility of your desired retirement location.
Access to care
This is a broad category that can include availability to high-quality healthcare, as well as proximity to caregivers—either paid caregivers or friends/family members who are willing and able to assist with any caregiving needs. It also can include availability of assisted living or long-term care services. A metropolitan area will almost always offer a wider variety of options when it comes to paid care.
As an example: Opting to retire to a rural cabin on a lake would be lovely, but what will you do if/when you require healthcare or assisted living services? There likely will be fewer resources available as compared to retiring to a more populated area.
What kind of senior living lifestyle do you hope to have? The retirement location you choose will heavily impact your day-to-day life.
It’s beneficial to seniors’ mental and physical health to have a variety of activities to fill their time (conversely, isolation and boredom are detrimental to seniors’ wellbeing). Thus, it is wise to choose a senior living location that provides convenient access to things like a gym, restaurants, the library, shopping, continuing education courses (offered by many colleges and universities), and entertainment venues.
As I wrote about a few weeks ago, it is crucial for seniors to build up their social capital in order to have a network of friends and family in place when they need emotional or physical support. It is therefore important to choose a retirement location where you either have existing friends and family nearby, or have easy access to a solid pool of potential new friends.
Again, loneliness can have a variety of negative impacts on a senior’s emotional and physical health. But by nurturing relationships with loved ones, you can build a solid social safety net for the future. And choosing a location in close proximity to friends and family (or where you can form new friendships) makes this much easier.
Location, location, location
You’ve worked hard, raised a family, and are looking forward to your ideal retirement. As you consider the various options you have for senior living locations, it is important to take these five factors into account.
While there are countless possibilities for where to live as you age, it is worth noting that a retirement community, such as a continuing care retirement community (CCRC or life plan community), often can check all of the boxes for the retirement location criteria I list above.
There’s no single senior living choice that’s right for everyone, and ultimately, a retirement community may not be the right place for you. But when you weigh the importance of each of these location factors, it may be worth at least considering this senior living option.