By Kevin Theissen
The best place to retire in the United States is in dispute. There’s no formal debate, but a review of various publications showed surveys have named different states and cities as the “best” place to retire. For instance:
Iowa was No. 1 in a best places to retire survey cited by Yahoo! Money.
Fort Myers, Florida was #1 in the ranking from U.S. News & World Report.
Athens, Georgia was the first name on a list of 25 places that are “all the best,” according to Forbes.
Catalina Foothills, Arizona topped Money.com’s list of eight equally best places to retire.
It begs the question, doesn’t it? How can there be so many “best’ places to retire”? The answer is, it all depends on the criteria used to make the determination. If you plan to move and start life in a new place during retirement, there is a variety of factors to consider. Some are general, like cost of living, state tax rates, and healthcare services. Others are personal, like livability or proximity to children and grandchildren.
Here are seven issues to consider when deciding where you’ll retire:
Cost of living. The amount needed to pay for basic expenses like housing, transportation, groceries, and healthcare, varies significantly from state to state and city to city. For example, it might cost you double to live in Hawaii than it does in Mississippi.
Home prices. While cost-of-living calculations often include housing costs, some focus on renting rather than buying. If you plan to buy a home, then it will be important to learn about the average housing costs in various regions.
Taxes. There is a lot to think about when it comes to taxes. You should consider state income tax, taxation of Social Security benefits, retirement income tax-exemptions, property taxes, and sales taxes.
Livability. It’s a catch-all category that speaks to quality of life. For instance, how does the crime rate compare to other places? Can you get around without a car? Is it easy to walk or bike around town? Are there opportunities to take advantage of continuing education? What types of cultural events and entertainment are available? If your list of potential retirement spots includes places you have not visited before, make sure you travel to them more than once. If possible, live in the community for a few weeks or months.
Availability of healthcare. If your list of possible retirement locales is comprised primarily of cities, healthcare services may be readily available to you. If your preference is for more remote locations, it will be important to investigate the availability of healthcare services.
Work prospects. A lot of people would like to continue working in retirement. They may begin a new career, start a business, offer mentoring, or take on a part-time job. If a working retirement is a priority, you may want to research which cities have the highest percentage of workers age 65 and older, and where the growth of 65 and older workers is fastest.
Weather. If you hate the cold, South Dakota will never be the best place for you to retire. Similarly, if you hate heat, Arizona may not be the most desirable choice.
The bottom line is the best place for you to retire is the place that meets your criteria. Money.com explained it pretty well:
“What makes a great place to retire? It’s a trick question, of course – there are as many answers as there are retirees. Some love to golf in the sun, while others feel most invigorated by winter sports. For every history buff, there’s a modern art enthusiast, an adventurer for every homebody.”
The first step in finding your best place to retire is to know yourself and your spouse and what will be important to you.
Kevin Theissen is the owner of HWC Financial in Ludlow.