Dear Savvy Senior,
Can you give me some tips and resources for finding a great retirement location? My wife and I will both be retiring in a few years and have always dreamed of retiring in a milder climate but could use some help. What can you tell us? - Looking to Relocate
For many, retiring to a new location is an exciting option and a great way to start a new chapter in life, but remember that the grass isn't always greener somewhere else. Here's what you should know.
Where to Retire
While most American's stay where they are when they retire, an estimated 700,000 choose to relocate to new towns each year. If you believe relocating (whether it's year around or seasonal) will make your retirement more satisfying, take some time to carefully research the area and make multiple visits. Here are some things to consider that can help you find the right place that meets your needs:
Crime: For many retirees, a low crime rate is a top priority in choosing a retirement location. The most reliable way to get local and even neighborhood crime statistics is to contact the city's local government. For city or town contact information visit www.firstgov.gov/ Agencies/Local.shtml.
Climate: Do you like warm weather and sunny skies year round, or do you appreciate the change in seasons and a nice winter snowfall? To get monthly climate statistics of the locations you're interested in see www.weatherbase.com. It's also a wise idea to visit the city or area at least once in the winter and once in the summer to get a feel of weather changes.
Cost-of-living: To get an idea of what it will cost you to live in a new location, visit www.coli.org, where you can get a cost-of-living comparison (for $7.95) that compares housing, utilities, groceries, health care and transportation.
Another good cost comparing tool is at www.homefair.com. Also, don't forget to figure in the state and local tax rates when scouting out places to retire.
For a state-by-state breakdown of income taxes, sales and fuel taxes, taxes on retirement income, property taxes and inheritance and estate taxes, visit www.retirementliving.com/ RLtaxes.html.
Active downtown: Many retirees look to relocate in a community with a clean, safe vibrant downtown that offers shopping, restaurants and various cultural activities.
Medical care: Does the area have a good hospital, health clinic, medical and dental center near by? To locate doctors in your prospective city that accepts Medicare, visit www.medicare.gov and click on "Find a Doctor" or call (800) 633-4227.
Distance: Is living near your children and grandchildren a high priority?
Transportation: If you plan to travel much, having an airport with commercial service or train station nearby is a nice advantage. Another consideration is public transportation. Since most retiree's give up driving in their eighties, what services will be available.
Recreation: Depending on your hobbies and interest - golf, fishing, art, music, adult continuing education and more - your retirement destination should meet your interest and needs.
Work or volunteer: If you're interested in occupying your time with full time or part time work or by volunteering, what kinds of opportunities are available?
A good online resource to help you gather and compare information on communities nationwide is Sperling's Best Places at www.bestplaces.net.
It offers climate profiles, crime statistics, a cost of living calculator, city and neighborhood profiles and a city comparison tool.
Another resource is your prospective city's chamber of commerce. See www.uschamber.com to find the contact information.
And a great publication to keep you informed on the best places to retire and much more is the "Where to Retire" magazine. It offers six issues per year for $18.
To subscribe call (713) 974-6903 or on the Web, visit www.wheretoretire.com.
- Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Senior" book.