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Should You Move Before You Retire?

By Selena Maranjian - May 23, 2016 at 7:38PM

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Should you move before you retire? Well, it depends -- on your needs, your finances, your lifestyle, and more.

For most of us, approaching retirement means assessing our financial preparedness to see how on- or off-track we are. It may also mean starting to price new golf clubs or gardening tools as we anticipate having more time on our hands.

Some people, though, are looking into moving to a new location. Should you move before you retire? Well, it depends.

Why you might want to move before you retire

There are lots of reasons you might want to move before you retire. You might simply find that you can't afford where you're living now. If so, you can look for a less expensive home in your same general area -- or you might ponder moving to a region with significantly lower costs. According to Wallethub.com, the average American household faced $2,089 in property taxes in 2015. That's the national average. The average rate in Illinois was $3,939, while it was $3,971 and $3,327, respectively, in New Jersey and Texas. Meanwhile, it was only $1,089 and $984, respectively, in Colorado and South Carolina. Lots of other regions, states, or even countries can cost you a lot less than you're paying now.

You might want to move closer to your children or some other loved ones, perhaps just because you can, or maybe because you're facing the prospect of gradually needing more help with things over the years. Moving might also make sense if you want to position yourself better for your retirement lifestyle. You might, for example, move into a city, where you won't need to drive yourself anywhere, and where you can take advantage of more cultural events -- perhaps even becoming a volunteer guide at a museum. Maybe you want to move for a more temperate climate.

Is it a good idea to move before you retire? Well, yes, it certainly can be. After all, if you move while you're still working, you'll still be collecting your income, which can help when it comes to paying for movers and/or trucks. It can be more daunting to be paying such significant costs from your nest egg that you're not yet used to drawing money from.

It can also make sense to move while you're younger, as you'll have more energy for packing things up, unpacking, and settling in to your new surroundings -- finding needed stores or services, joining groups, meeting people, making new friends, and so on. If you're a telecommuter, you will likely have great flexibility as to when you move and how far.

Moving can take a toll. Image source: Nick Rice, Flickr.

Why you might not want to move before you retire

Of course, moving before you retire is not a no-brainer decision. There are downsides, too. If you're moving away from family and friends (perhaps to be in a less costly place), you may find yourself feeling isolated and depressed. If you haven't considered the big picture of wherever you move to, you might be surprised that while it sports low taxes, utility costs are sky high. Or maybe healthcare costs are high, or healthcare availability is not what you assumed it would be.

Moving might also prove to be more trouble than it's worth. It consumes a lot of energy, thought, and money deciding, planning, sorting through and thinning your belongings, packing, moving, unpacking, settling in, and so on. Selling one home and buying another can be costly, too, with realtor fees and closing costs, and it can cost you to spruce up your home in order to sell it and to remodel your new home as you want it, too.

What to do

There's no universal answer to the question of whether you should move before you retire. While there are pluses to moving, sometimes staying put is best. If need be, you might get by financially living in your home by selling items you don't need or use on eBay, or perhaps opening your home up to a boarder or to occasional Airbnb guests.

Think outside of whatever box you're in. If you're thinking of buying a single-family home, add retirement communities to your consideration set. They do present some extra costs, but they also relieve you of maintaining a large home and property, and you may have meals available when you want them, too, in a dining room with new friends. You might just move into a community of single-family homes geared toward retirees. If you're moving to a location that could attract a lot of visiting friends and relatives, you might not want to downsize your home too much. You could also improve your financial condition -- and thereby maybe not need to move -- by working a few more years.

So go ahead and consider moving before you retire (or after), but be thorough in your thinking, listing every expense, savings, upside, and downside you can think of. Discuss your thinking with those who will be affected by your decision, too.

And finally, remember that this move, if you make it, won't necessarily be your last one. You might spend 15 years of your retirement in your next home and maybe then move closer to your family, when your physical condition makes that a smart choice.

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