Posted by: drdata921 | February 22, 2014

Retirement Relocation Confusion

If you are like me, you spend a lot of time reading articles about retirement. One of the really interesting topics has to do with where to retire. The question is how to find a place to live in retirement that “checks off all of the boxes?” That is how do you find a place that provides all of the things you are looking for?

I subscribe to a magazine called “Where to Retire” that provides some interesting perspectives. I would recommend this magazine wholeheartedly if you are considering a move:


If you go on-line you will find a multitude of articles on the topic. The problem is that nearly every day there is another article entitled “The 10 Best Places to Retire.” I find these articles on Yahoo – Finance and on several websites that I subscribe. While some locations are common to most – you find Madison, WI, Austin, TX, and Seattle WA on at least half of the top 10 lists – there is a huge amount of variation in terms of which locations make the list. In some cases, I scratch my head. I am sure that Dayton Ohio is a lovely place, but as a top 10 retirement location . . .?

As useful and fun as these top 10 articles are to read, they reinforce one basic fact: One person’s nirvana is another person’s place to be avoided. Preferences are very individual. What is critically importance to you in a retirement location could be totally irrelevant to someone else. So, I can provide you with a list of the top 10 places to retire, but the list will be little more that suggestions for you to consider – agree with or make fun of (sorry Dayton). If you really want to know the best place for you, you need to do a personal analysis.

This sounds a bit complicated and it will require some research, but the results will be helpful and provide you with some peace-of-mind if you are considering relocation. Here are the steps to follow:

1) Develop a shortlist of locations you would consider. To keep it manageable, I would limit this to no more than 10 – 12 locations. This may be based on places you have been thinking about or locations you have always wanted to live, or your favorite vacation spots. For me, I have always wanted to live in Denver, but there have never been the opportunities. Seattle is my favorite city in the country and made my shortlist. You can get some ideas from the top 10 articles and other information on the internet. You can also get some great guidance from the book “Retirement Places Rated.”

Just a side note: Some will ask if Seattle is my favorite city in the country, why not just retire there. That is an excellent question. The answer is that in retirement, you have to consider an array of factors. The ambiance and amenities in Seattle are phenomenal, but the cost-of-living could put a strain on retirement finances. When I was younger, “if it feels good, do it” was my mantra. In retirement, you need to be a little more careful.

2) Next, determine which factors you are going to use to rate the retirement locations you have identified. “Retirement Places Rated” can be a very helpful guide here. However, it is not the only source. So, I would consider factors such as cost-of-living, recreational opportunities, educational opportunities, the local economy (part-time jobs, etc.), ambiance, health care, the tax situation, etc. Include whatever factors are important to you and will influence the quality of your retirement. I would also include a final category called “intangibles.” For example, we at one time considered Tucson AZ as a potential location. It had a lot going for it. The city has a very nice desert/ southwestern flavor, housing was cheap and very unique, it had a vibrant and accessible college community, and it was a haven for sports activities. However, we had to eliminate it from the list because of one intangible: It had a lot of predators (both in the air and on the ground) and it seemed unlikely that our precious kitties would survive. They are our “kids” after all. What are the intangibles for you – the deal makers or breakers?

3) Now comes the fun part! On a sheet of paper (on in a spreadsheet) list the locations you have identified down a column. Across the top of the page, list the factors that you have identified to rate each of these potential locations. As an additional step you might want to create some sort of weighting system to signify which of these factors are more or less important. I have found this to be helpful, but it is up to you.

4) Evaluate each of your potential retirement locations on each of these factors. List the pros and cons. For example, let’s say that you selected Tucson. What are the good and bad things from a cost-of-living, local economy, recreation, etc.? Fill in each cell with the information you could find. As you review these pros and cons consider how important each is to you. Determine how all of these potential locations stack up. In addition to being a useful way of assessing various options, it is a great tool to spark conversation between you and your spouse. You can come to a better understanding of what is important to each of you so that you can strike a workable compromise.

I, at one time, tried to do a much more mathematical approach. I found ratings on the important factors on-line and from sources such a “Retirement Places Rate.” I then multiplied these rating by the important of each and summed the total across the factors I was using to rate. In theory, the locations with the highest overall ratings should be your prime choices. However, in some cases, the results just didn’t feel right. So, I think getting too numeric is overkill and could lead you down the wrong path. After all, this is as much an emotional decision as it is rational.

Retirement relocation is one of the important decisions that you could make. This a new phase in your life and you may be selecting a new home for the next 20 to 30 years. It is a decision worthy of a lot of research and discussion. In the end, it will be an important component of you retirement satisfaction.



  1. Lists of “best places to retire” always remind me of lists of “best plants to grow in your garden;” they assume homogeneity where there is heterogeneity, and they don’t even begin to capture the complex interactions among factors. Choosing the best plants to grow in my garden depend not only on climate, soil conditions, amount of light and moisture, garden style, and how I want to use the garden; they also depend on how all these factors interact with one another. And it’s unlikely that the best plants for me will be the same as the best plants for someone else. The same is true of choosing a retirement location. The best the lists can do is to help you clarify what factors are important to you. And that clarification often results from the list-maker getting it totally wrong. (I remember, for example, one list of “10 best retirement places for singles” based on the assumption that the top priority of anyone without a partner was to find one.) Most of the most important factors for me don’t even make the lists. So, yes, I can imagine a set of assumptions that would put Dayton in the top ten; and those assumptions probably aren’t any more ludicrous than the ones that put Seattle in the top 10.

  2. Great practical advice. Retirement is not a subject that should be left to chance or afterthought. Thanks for giving such valuable information.

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