• Deciding where to retire is a very personal process, but we’ll try to help make it easier in this article. 
  • We’ve rounded up some of the factors that most people find most important in their decisions on where to retire – but don’t forget that retiree considerations may be different than the ones you have while you’re still working.

Retiring is an enormous life change, and if you’re thinking about moving after you stop working, that transition may become even bigger. In this article, we’ve rounded up some of the most important considerations to help you tackle the decision of where to retire. 

In the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies 2023 survey, retirees ranked the following criteria in terms of importance when choosing where to live: 

  • Access to family and friends: While nearly two-thirds (64%) of the survey respondents said living nearby loved ones was one of their most important goals, you may not agree. For one thing, you may not have close relationships with your family members. Or they may have a lifestyle that isn’t compatible with yours — living in a big city, say, or someplace with extreme heat. Or you may want some privacy or the ability to pursue hobbies or recreation – such as water sports – that are only possible in certain areas.
    Whatever the reason, it’s important for you to carve out a path for your retirement that works for you. You wouldn’t be alone: in 2023, United Van Lines found that the share of movers citing the desire to be closer to family dropped to 27%, from 32.5% in 2022.
  • Affordability: in 2023, the most popular states for relocating retirees were Florida, Delaware, South Carolina, Maine and New Mexico, according to the United Van Lines survey. Of those states, only New Mexico taxes Social Security income, according to an analysis done by SmartAsset – but it offers deductions to seniors with lower incomes. 
    Taxes are only one part of affordability, of course. Home prices are another big one. As of January, most of the states on the list above had median home prices near or below the national median of $342,941, according to Zillow. For retirees who’ve amassed a great deal of wealth in their homes in more expensive areas, selling and moving to a place with a lower cost of living can be a great strategy.
    Another component of affordability is the cost of living. Your budget is likely going to be a lot different when you stop working compared to while you were drawing a paycheck. Check out the  retirement calculator created by AARP to help you think about expenses (and income), and how much you’ll need to retire. It’s also important to remember that if you’re thinking of moving, the cost of living won’t be the same everywhere.  
    You can also check out this broad-strokes, state-by-state comparison.
  • Health care: Nearly half of the United Van Lines respondents (47%) said “access to excellent health care and hospitals” was their top priority in choosing where to retire, and it’s no wonder. At this stage of life, medical care may well be the most important consideration for most people. 
    According to U.S. News and World Report “Best Places to Retire” report, good hospitals are one of the biggest contributors to the list, which features some locales that may surprise you. Six of the top 10 “bests” are in Pennsylvania, in large part because of easy access to world-class healthcare, including some of the nation’s top teaching hospitals.
    While it’s natural to think those facilities may be mostly found in urban areas, that’s not always the case. Universities in suburban areas may have excellent medical options. If this is a priority for you, do your homework in figuring out how accessible those facilities are to wherever you’d want to live. The livability index from the AARP may be one resource for finding areas with good access. 
  • Low crime rate: No-one wants to confront crime of any kind, but living in a place with a safer track record may be especially important for seniors. In fact, 40% of United Van Lines survey respondents called it a priority. While crime statistics can be somewhat hard to pin down, there are a few resources: 

    The Centers for Disease Control publishes an annual state-by-state ranking of homicides, and Wikipedia has an analysis of multiple types of crimes by metro areas within states, based on FBI data (only as of 2019). If you have an area in mind where you’d like to retire, but don’t know much about how safe it is, ask a few local real estate agents to provide you with crime statistics.
  • Leisure and recreational activities: One-third of United Van Lines’ respondents called this a priority, and for the golden age of life, why not? Bonus: this component of your retirement plan might be the most fun to experiment with before you make the move! 
    For some seniors, a particular type of climate or geography (snow or sea, big-city opera or art) may be the deciding factor. For others, hobbies like birding or chess may be more universally available. Conde Nast Traveler, an online publication that should know great activities and where to find them, offers a nice list of suggestions.  

To summarize, retiring is a big step and retiring to a different location is even bigger. We’ve outlined some of the components of that decision, but deciding whether and where to move during retirement is a personal question that only you can answer. Good luck! 


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