Posted by: drdata921 | April 12, 2013

Relocation Possibilities I


One of the most important decisions you can make as you approach retirement is whether to stay in your current location or to relocate. This is probably on par with the importance of deciding when to retire because it will affect your lifestyle for the remainder of your life.

In my professional career I have made a lot of moves: Detroit (MI), Blacksburg (VA), Chicago (IL), Dallas/Fort Worth (TX), Columbia (MO), the San Francisco Bay Area (CA), Atlanta (GA), Winston-Salem (NC), and my current residence, St. Louis (MO). This is a very diverse set of locations – most look and feel nothing like home. So, where do I want to be when I retire?

As I have worked on my book (“Do I Have Enough Money to Retire”), I have had the opportunity to examine the benefits and pitfalls of relocation. In the book I was pretty much focused on issues related to cost-of-living. However, there is much more to this decision than finances. There is a psychological and lifestyle dimension that has to do with what will make you happy in retirement.

In this Blog post I will preview available resources to help you decide where to move if you are thinking about relocation. In my next Blog post, I will deal with the financial issues and how to get a handle on whether this is a good or bad idea for your retirement.

There are several websites, such as Yahoo – Finance that run articles about the “best places to retire in 20xx” (you fill in the year). These articles focus on both US and off-shore retirement. There are books that you can find on that provide detailed profiles of specific cities either domestic or foreign. If it is a reasonably sized location, you can find a book about it. OR, you can just “Google” the location and find sites that provide detailed descriptions, photographs and videos of the area.

If you want to explore a larger list of options and find the places that are the best fit in the US, buy the book, “Retirement Places Rated” by David Savageau. This book profiles and ranks 200 locations on a number of important dimensions such as the cost-of-living, weather, ambience, the area’s economy, etc. This is an incredibly useful resource. Although this book has not been updated since 2007, it is still a “must have” in your retirement library.

David Savageau also has a website. On this website you can indicate your personal priorities across the dimensions used in the book and get a list of the 10 places, in rank order, that best conform to the things that you are looking for.

As my wife and I have considered various locations, we have gone on-line to look at housing and what you get for your money in terms of quality and neighborhoods. In Google or Bing, type in the city name followed by MLS (Multiple Listing Service). You will get a list of websites. When you find a useful site, type in specific information such as the limits of what you want to spend, the number of bedrooms and baths, etc. You will be given a list of houses currently on the market that conform to your specifications. You can click on specific listings and view photos of the house. On many of these listings, you can take a “virtual tour.” Think of this as a movie where you are walking through the house.

However, you can go one step further. Since you can get specific addresses from these listings, you can go to Google Earth , put in the address from the MLS listing and you will be taken to an interactive panorama of the neighborhood and the house itself. You literally start in outer space and zoom down to street level. Many, but not all of these are in 3-D. It’s sort of like walking around the neighborhood from your PC. With Google Earth you can also zoom out, find a place like a park or beach, and zoom back in. Want to see what the beaches look like from sand-level . . . This is really cool stuff.

Now, if there is still time until you retire, specific houses are unlikely to be available. However, use this search to determine if this is the general location you would want to live and whether you can afford the kind of housing you want.

One addition resource that I might mention is “Where to Retire” magazine, a bi-monthly publication that profiles various retirement locations and runs articles relevant to retirement relocation. This is useful, but not a replacement for David Savageau’s book.

I have only scratched the surface with this post in terms of what I have learned. If there is general interest in this topic, please let me know and I will do a follow-up. In my next post, I will discuss the financial elements of a relocation decision.


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