Retirees are typically faced with a world of decisions that make kicking off their golden years somewhat stressful. The decision to file for Social Security immediately versus wait, for example, is one that could impact a given senior's monthly income for life. Similarly, the decision of how much retirement savings to withdraw annually could spell the difference between that nest egg lasting throughout retirement or getting prematurely depleted.
And let's not forget another key piece of the puzzle: the right area of the country to retire in. Many seniors grapple with this decision, and unfortunately, new data from Age Friendly Ventures indicates that roughly one-third of Americans don't adequately think it through. That's because 31% of retirees say they'd rather live someplace other than where they're currently based. Not only that, but two out of three seniors feel they didn't do enough research to determine where they should live in retirement.
If you're about to bring your career to a close, it's imperative that you choose your retirement locale carefully. Here are a few important factors to keep in mind.
1. Cost of living
Once you retire, you're likely to move over to a fixed income unless you plan to work in some capacity. So, it pays to choose somewhere that offers a reasonable cost of living. Think about your major expenses in retirement, like housing and transportation, and do some research to see where you might get more bang for your buck. You might also focus on those states that tax your income the least, keeping in mind that retirement plan withdrawals are taxable unless you've saved in a Roth account. Furthermore, be aware that some states tax Social Security benefits to varying degrees -- though many also offer an exemption that eases or removes this burden.
2. Access to healthcare
As we age, our healthcare needs tend to magnify. As part of the decision process, do some research to see which states rank highest and lowest for senior healthcare in terms of accessibility, and also affordability. Along these lines, if you have a known medical condition you'll need to monitor heavily in retirement, you might focus your search around specialists in that field.
3. Access to leisure
Retiring means going from a busy, jam-packed workweek to having loads of free time on your hands. Therefore, it pays to retire somewhere that lends to an enjoyable existence. If you're big on nightlife, you might choose a city loaded with theaters and clubs. If you enjoy nature, you might move someplace rural to benefit from its network of hiking trails and parks. Your budget, of course, will play a big role in dictating where you move to, and if it's limited, you might favor places that offer plenty of free entertainment.
4. Proximity to family
Getting older often means struggling with mobility issues and self-care. Even if that's not something you're worried about in your 60s or 70s, once you reach your 80s and 90s, it could become a major concern. And since home health aides are expensive, it might pay to live somewhere reasonably close to family, so that you get the help you need when you're more vulnerable. Living close to family in retirement can benefit you in other ways, too. For one thing, you might enjoy a more fulfilling lifestyle if you're able to spend your days visiting your grandkids after school or spending weekends with similarly retired siblings or cousins. And if you own a home in retirement, having younger family nearby could save you a considerable amount of money if your loved ones are able to help out with maintenance and repairs.
Even if you're a four-seasons type of person, as you age, you might find that your tolerance for extreme cold or heat starts to wane. Living someplace with a moderate climate could end up being easiest on your body, so tempting as it might be to spend your golden years in Florida or Alaska, you might explore a more middle-of-the-road alternative instead.
Figuring out where to retire isn't an easy decision. While there are plenty of rankings out there for the best states for seniors, remember that, ultimately, your individual needs in retirement might differ from the average American's. Therefore, make sure to do your research, and don't just rely on data that may or may not apply to you.