When you think about your retirement years, you may have a vision of where you want to live or the things you want to do. But one of the biggest factors—if not the biggest one—that will impact those decisions is your financial status.
Anticipating your future living expenses is important no matter where you live, but if you’re planning to relocate in retirement, you’ll want to pay close attention to some of the hidden costs of moving to a new location.
Though there are varying schools of thought regarding the best places to retire, it’s critical to make a decision that’s based on your specific goals and what you can afford. To help you as you research, look over this list of financial considerations when choosing the best place to retire.
- Your financial situation should play a large role in deciding the best place to move when you retire.
- When thinking of where you want to move, you’ll want to research cost of living, tax obligations, housing costs, and healthcare access in the cities/states you’re considering.
- Additional factors like proximity to family, climate, and lifestyle choices can also impact your finances and should be factored in when crunching your retirement numbers.
Financial Things to Consider
When you work with a financial planner, they can help you estimate what your expenses will be and how much income and savings you’ll have available when you retire. If you are contemplating moving when you retire, however, you’ll have some additional calculations to make. You might be selling your home and buying or renting a new one, not to mention that expenses can be drastically different depending on where you go.
Here are some of the main financial factors to think about.
Cost of Living
When you’re living on a fixed budget, any incremental increase in expenses is going to have a big impact on your retirement lifestyle, says Eric Mangold, financial planner and founder of Argosy Wealth Management in Westfield, N.J. “You definitely want to make sure you have an idea of the cost of living wherever you’re going.” He suggests doing a trial run, even if that means renting out an Airbnb for a few days and checking out local supermarkets and other services to get a feel for the average costs in a new area.
Then ask yourself, how does the cost of your typical grocery list compare to what you’re paying in your current hometown? What are gas prices? Check out restaurants, movies, and any other venues you might frequent in a new place.
Cost of living is an even bigger factor in periods of inflation, as the last couple of years has illustrated. Ideally, try choosing a location that has a comparable or lower cost of living than you’re used to.
According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s (EBRI) Spending in Retirement Survey, nearly a third of retirees’ monthly income goes toward housing expenses. Therefore, when shopping for a residence in a new location, you’ll want to be mindful of how much your housing will cost. This can involve a rent or mortgage, maintenance or homeowner’s association (HOA) fees, and property taxes.
The good news is that average housing costs do tend to drop over time among retirees, according to Fidelity’s Spending in Retirement study, from just over $23,000 per year at age 55 to around $18,000 by age 65 and just under $16,000 by 75. Of course, this is because people downsize or make strategic moves to less pricey areas, which should be your ultimate goal if you’re trying to lower your expenses.
On the other hand, if you’re relocating, property tax is a big factor to consider as the difference in cost can be significant depending on where you live and where you’re moving to. “Some states are horrible to retire in,” Mangold says. “I have clients who lived in New Jersey all their lives, moved to North Carolina, and went from paying $15,000 to $1,100 in property taxes.”
The other item to research is maintenance or HOA fees if you’re moving into a community development or condo. You’ll want to make sure you understand what is included, and what amenities might involve an additional cost.
While housing costs tend to decrease as you age, you can expect healthcare costs to rise. At age 65, households will incur, on average, $67,000 in out-of pocket health costs over their remaining lives, according to a study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.
Where you move in retirement can impact the cost of medical care. If you have a condition that requires highly specialized treatment, for instance, will you be able to find the care you need in your new location or have to fly back to see your current practitioner?
You’ll want to consider not only the quality and availability of the specific care you need, but also how far you will be from health facilities like urgent cares, hospitals, and regular physicians you may need to visit.
One of the big financial factors when moving for retirement is how tax-friendly the state is. Currently, a handful of states do not have income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. In addition, if you will be getting a pension in retirement, you’ll want to investigate whether the state you want to relocate to is “pension-friendly,” meaning that it will not tax your pension income.
Taxes should be high on the list of financial factors to consider, says Mark Charnet, founder and CEO of American Prosperity Group in Sparta, N.J. “The lower the tax cost of a new area, the more cash flow back into your pockets.” In a perfect situation, you’d select a state with no income tax and lower property taxes if you’re hoping to save a lot of money.
How Relocating for Retirement Impacts Planning
In addition to things like your housing and tax costs changing, part of your decision should involve how your move will impact your family dynamics, your lifestyle, and ultimately your budget. Some things to think about:
Distance from Family
Where will you be spending your holidays? Will you be visiting kids and grandkids a few times per year? If so, you’ll need to consider the cost and feasibility of traveling. Beyond just airfare (if needed), you’ll want to think about where you’ll be staying when you arrive. If you’ll need a hotel or car rental each time, those expenses will add up quickly, Charnet says.
The other concern is that if your health is not stellar, or if you develop an illness later on and your loved ones are too far away to pitch in for your care, could you afford to hire a home health aide? Many retirees end up having to move back for this reason, Mangold says.
When choosing where you want to move in retirement, thinking about the lifestyle you want to have—and the cost to maintain it—is one of the most important considerations. You’ll want to make sure that you are close to the activities you enjoy doing, and scope out the cost of continuing to engage in them, Charnet says.
For example, if you enjoy walking and biking, you might choose a “walkable” city or someplace with access to a lot of nature trails. If you play pickleball or like pool swimming, does the community have those amenities on site? What are the golf fees at nearby courses?
People who plan to have an active lifestyle in retirement should expect to bump up their budgets as much as 6 percentage points more than those of less active seniors, according to Fidelity’s 2022 Spending in Retirement study.
Aging in Place
If you’re making a move when you retire, it likely will be where you live the rest of your life. If that’s your plan, you may want to make sure that the home has “age in place” features to accommodate physical limitations that could come. For example, is it all on one level? Does it have a walk-in shower?
Charnet, who is semi-retired himself, said that he designed his own home with the intention of being there for the rest of his life. “If you cannot afford a long-term care facility, you can plan in advance to build certain features within your own home,” he says.
Sure, you’re retired and you might not want to think about the job market. But what if you get bored and want to pick up part-time work or consulting? Perhaps you decide that having a little bit of income will help fund a new hobby you picked up. Or maybe you want to continue volunteer work in a new location.
“There should be some job opportunities in the location you’re going to,” Charnet says—even if it’s just being a greeter at Walmart or giving some time at a local food bank. “The psychological impact of that is very important.”
Not only do you want to move somewhere that matches your weather preferences, but you also have to consider the financial impacts involved. For example, many popular retirement areas also happen to be susceptible to hurricanes (like Florida and the Carolinas) or record heat (like Arizona).
“I have clients in North Carolina who just spent extra money for hurricane shutters, and another in the Ft. Meyers, Florida area who just had his flood insurance increase from $1,300 to $3,300 this year,” Mangold says.
If you move to an area with wildfire, storm, or flood risk, you’ll want to be sure you have extra funds available to cover insurance and any extra protections needed to fortify your home.
Start your compare-and-contrast research online at a website called RiskFactor.com, which collects location-based data on fire, flood, and wind risks.
Leaving the U.S.
If you can’t afford to retire to the most expensive states and aren’t interested in lower cost areas, you might decide that it’s more cost efficient to retire to another country. That is not for everyone, for sure, but if you have family ties to another nation or really enjoy a particular locale that you’ve visited before, it could be worth considering. Be aware that each country has its own rules and regulations for retirees coming from other countries.
The Bottom Line
Moving in retirement is an exciting transition into the next chapter of your life. But thinking about the big picture financial implications of your location choice is important. Where you move can have a big impact on your overall costs in ways you might not have thought about.
If you have some time before you retire, work on becoming as financially prepared as possible before you begin exploring a new place to live. Having a bigger nest egg opens up more options. Before you start packing, work with a financial planner to help you understand the amount of monthly expenses you can afford, which, in turn, can allow you to make an informed choice regarding where you should retire.
Read More:Where Should I Retire?