Among the many choices you must consider as retirement nears is where you want to spend your golden years. With freedom from your employer comes the freedom to get a change of scenery. Although the financial aspects of deciding where you want to live are important, you should also consider the many other reasons for staying where you are or choosing where you want to go. Once you have a clear understanding of your own wishes, you can figure out how to make the most of the financial resources you have to get what you want from your retirement.

Sticking with your support system
For many people, retiring has a major impact on their social lives. Although no longer having to go to work may seem like an unambiguously good thing, it also means no longer seeing people every day whom you've gotten to know over the years. In addition, retirees often choose not to attend outside business functions such as industry conferences, community fundraisers, and other special events that may have formed a substantial part of their social activity during their careers. Even when these functions are open to retirees, they may feel awkward interacting with people with whom they no longer share the day-to-day experiences of their former profession.

On the other hand, if you have other friends who are already retired, then this may be an opportunity for you to spend more time with people you've always wanted to know better. While your busy work life may have limited you to the occasional hurried lunch or quick phone call, the freedom of retirement may enable you to do more adventurous things with a friend. For instance, you may enjoy travel but not like to go by yourself; if you have a friend who shares your interests, it may be an ideal situation for both of you.

If you have strong relationships with friends and a fruitful social network, you may not want to move away even if it means staying in an area with a higher cost of living. Be sure to give full weight to the emotional value of being happy; trading your happiness for any monetary need is a sacrifice best avoided.

Following your kids
Of course, your own personal priorities and values define where you get emotional support. If your family is most important to you, then you may want to take the opportunity to move closer to where children and grandchildren live. Especially when children move far away from you, it may be easier for you just to live nearby instead of trying to overcome the difficulties involved in constantly traveling to visit.

Every family is different and has its own interpersonal dynamics. The best situations are those in which a retired parent moves not only to be closer to children but also for additional reasons unrelated to family matters. When a parent moves solely for the sake of being nearer to a child, it can put unwanted pressure on that child to provide a social life for the parent singlehandedly. On the other hand, if parents already have social connections of their own in the new area, then their children can feel more comfortable about the parents' ability to be self-sufficient.

Some of the most difficult situations involve retirees whose health is not the best. In such cases, economics often force a retired parent to cut costs by staying with children and their families. Again, whether such an arrangement will succeed or fail depends largely on how family members relate to each other. However, it's fair to say that such arrangements are often stressful and rife with potential pitfalls.

Going where the fun is
Part of the excitement of retirement is finally getting to do whatever you want, whenever you want. In order to make the most of your golden years, you may want to move closer to your favorite places for having fun. Many homebuilders, such as the Del Webb division of Pulte (NYSE:PHM), cater to retirees by building entire communities for active adults. Part of the reason southern states have become such popular retirement destinations is because the milder weather allows people to do outdoor activities like golf and hiking on a year-round basis. On the other hand, if you prefer cold-weather activities like skiing or snowboarding, then mountain states like Colorado or Montana might be more to your liking.

Those who like a wide range of activities and are fortunate enough to have sufficient financial resources can choose to buy a second residence and go back and forth during the year. This often gives them the best of both worlds, as they retain the social structure and support network from their hometown but also spend significant amounts of time doing things they never had enough time to do before they retired.

Leaving a legacy
Finally, for some, the choice of where to live in retirement isn't just about themselves. Rather, it's an opportunity to create a place with meaning within the family that can pass down from generation to generation. For example, vacation homes often allow families to gather together for holidays and on other important occasions. As younger family members grow, they become accustomed to visiting the family retreat and value it as part of their shared family history. If you have the means and the inclination, your choice of where to live in retirement can form the foundation of an experience that will improve the lives of a long line of descendants after you.

Choosing where to live isn't a simple decision for any retiree. After weighing all the factors, however, you can pick a destination that will let you achieve the dreams you've waited a lifetime to reach.

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Fool contributor Dan Caplinger is a long way from retirement, but he already has a few different spots in mind for where he'll kick up his heels. He doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. The Fool's disclosure policy will keep working long after you retire.