If you are about to retire and are thinking of moving to a new place, you are in luck. There’s no shortage of lists of the best places to retire.
Start with a quick online search and you will likely spend hours searching through databases and rankings of regions and cities. Researching it is easy, but it can be difficult to understand.
Typically, these lists contain a number of factors and assign points to each one. The big question is whether your priorities align with the main focuses of a list.
“It helps to understand the relative weighting of different criteria and then compare them with your own preferences,” says Chris Glynn, senior managing economist at Zillow.
Determine the method that will be used to create a list. Some rankings only isolate a few factors, such as housing, crime data, and health care. Others involve many more variables, from the availability of public transport to air quality and miles of coastlines.
“Some lists are really robust,” said Ryan McGonagill, director of Industry Research at SeniorLiving.org. “Others only look at one thing like monthly housing costs. It’s important to look at the big picture instead of relying too heavily on a narrow set of data.
When shopping for places to move around, there are a few variables that come to the fore. If you’re unsure that your fortune will last you, the cost of living deserves attention. Affordability measures – from home and auto insurance rates to property taxes – can influence your search.
Beware of emotions overriding your mind. For example, when you dream of sunny Florida beaches, it’s easy to miss months of unnerving tropical humidity.
“Some people rely on data to confirm what they think they already want,” said Jeff Smith, content manager at Retirement Living. It is better to approach the process with an open mind and a willingness to question the pros and cons, like a scientist gathers soberly.
Relatively young and healthy retirees may place more value on the cultural and lifestyle offerings of a city. While important, it is also wise to consider a region’s medical resources when you need them.
Check out renowned cancer centers and highly rated hospitals to assess health metrics. Instead, focus on a more mundane but critical need: who will be taking care of your ongoing care?
“A region can have a high number of hospital beds,” said Smith. “But we also look at the number of doctors and dentists per 100,000 inhabitants.”
He notes that areas with higher scores for the availability and quality of health care usually also have higher costs of living. Ideally, try to find a backcountry town that you love and that is just a few minutes’ drive from a town with exceptional medical facilities.
“Look for that happy mean,” he said. “Maybe you can go to a high-level, more specialized health area while living in a cheaper area.”
Even if you expect an active life and reject the idea of ending up in a nursing home, analyze the healthcare costs of staying at home. What if you eventually need home nursing or other assistance?
“The cost of care for the elderly can be relatively high even if the cost of housing is not,” said Smith. Assess demographics to ensure there is a sufficient pool of workers to provide home care along with established home care agencies and other senior support services.
If you’re looking to make new friends, check the population density and average age of residents. Some retirees fear living among their own kind; others welcome the opportunity to meet others in their age group.
“Find out what percentage of the total population is 50+ or 60+,” said McGonagill. “That is seldom a criterion [in best-places-to-retire lists]but it can be important. “
After all, don’t assume that every university town has the same allure. Attending free Nobel Laureate lectures and auditing classes sounds great until you discover that the local college doesn’t have such public programs.
“Go to the university’s website to see what opportunities it offers to connect with the community,” said Glynn. Check the performing arts schedule – and see if there is a senior discount – and public access to arts, culture, and sporting events hosted by universities.