Packing your bags for retirement? The location decision should go beyond financial considerations of cost of living and taxes.


One of the natural consequences of baby boomers getting older is an intense interest in exploring new living options. In 2020, some 71 million Americans will be 55 or older ­– the time when most begin to think seriously about when and where they’d like to retire.  

Certainly, choosing a location inside or outside the U.S. with lower cost of living is an important consideration, as your income downshifts, and living expenses begin to be consumed by higher healthcare costs. Taxes also can have a limiting effect on your lifestyle. But focusing solely on these costs may be a disservice to how you want to spend your time in your later years. Here’s a brief checklist to keep in mind as you weigh your options:

  1. Being close (enough) to family. Not surprisingly, this factor ranks up there with cost of living as among the most important factors for pre-retirees exploring location options. Being within a 20-minute or two-hour drive/flight can be an important consideration for retirees with extended families
  2. Sunny and 82 today. Most “top 25 best places to retire” lists tend to cluster around warm or moderate climates, reflecting research that shows that baby boomers favor sunnier weather when they move. No surprise that Florida, Texas and North Carolina tend to attract lots of retirees, according to Forbes.1 However, for those who don’t mind hardy winters, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Michigan offer communities with growing economies, pleasant shoulder seasons and plenty to do in the summer. More adventurous types may want to look internationally at Central/South America, the Mediterranean or Europe to find a retirement locale that matches their climate preferences.
  3. What’s your view from the kitchen window? Another popular way to narrow your geography decision is to decide whether you prefer to be in an urban or rural setting, near mountains for hiking or skiing, or water for boating and swimming — or some combination of these features.
  4. Home sweet home. Retirement homes in the Northeast and California tend to be more expensive than those in the Sunbelt or Midwest. According to the U.S. Census, the median national sale price of a new single-family home was $305,400 in November 2016, a 27% increase from a decade earlier.2
  5. When’s your next checkup? Measuring the ratio of doctors to the general population is a good way to benchmark the general level of healthcare in a given community, but don’t forget to factor wellness, transportation, air quality and living arrangements into the mix. The Milken Institute regularly publishes a report on the Best Cities for Successful Aging, which can be a useful resource.
  6. Strap on those walking shoes. Active lifestyles are important to your physical and mental well-being as you age, and your ability to run errands or shop by walking a modest or short distance may be one of the most important non-financial factors to a successful retirement.
  7. Get out and about. Some retirees are perfectly happy spending every free day on the golf course, or fishing. Others may have a taste for theatre, arts, food culture or volunteering. For that reason, college towns have become very popular destinations for retirees who seek cultural or lifelong learning opportunities.

For those who seek it, retirement offers the opportunity for change. While it also can mean less income, it also suggests more time to do what you want to do. Picking a place to live that mirrors your goals can be the golden ticket to new-found freedom.

¹William P. Barrett, “Best places to retire in 2016,”, April 4, 2016. 

²U.S. Census Bureau, “Median and Average Sale Prices of New Homes Sold in United States.” 


© 2017 Kmotion, Inc.