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4 questions you must ask before deciding where to retire

Money Talks News logo Money Talks News 7/20/2018 Marilyn Lewis
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Who doesn’t love reading real estate listings? It’s fun to dream, and lists of the “best places to retire” are fodder for the imagination.

However, you shouldn’t rely on such lists when deciding where to retire. Your own best-of list has to take your own life and particular needs into account. That is something no one but you can do.

Moving in retirement requires a different kind of planning. Changes — in finances, health and mobility — can happen quickly after age 60. An idyllic spot in the mountains or by the seashore may become too remote, or your home may become too hard to maintain after you’ve had a heart attack, been diagnosed with diabetes or simply slowed down.

Best-of lists often oversimplify the attractions of an area. For example, I live in the Pacific Northwest, in a town recently discovered by retirees from seemingly everywhere. Many find this place through online research. Some even move here pretty much sight-unseen.

While everyone knows that the coastal Northwest is rainy, a quick internet search can make you think you’ve found Shangri-La. In reality, winter days are short, damp and dark, with endlessly overcast skies.

“It’s raining,” a new neighbor complained to me. He seemed surprised. Maybe he’d moved here after reading best-of lists.

Enjoy those lists, but keep digging before you go. These questions can help you decide if a place will really work for your retirement, now and in the future:

1. Who will help care for me?

Most older people require help eventually, and many need a lot of assistance.

Of course, no one wants to burden children or friends. But, in reality, loved ones often must step up when elders need care.

So, make things easier for your kids and be realistic when you make a move. Adult children who are holding down jobs and rearing children will be severely burdened if they must travel long distances to help elderly loved ones.

2. Is good medical care nearby?

Living longer usually means living with a chronic disease. About 80 percent of older adults have at least one chronic disease, according to the nonprofit National Council on Aging. And 77 percent of older Americans have two or more.

With age, medical tests become more frequent. So do visits to specialists like oncologists, cardiologists, pulmonologists and orthopedists. Managing a chronic condition well — avoiding hospital stays and emergency room visits — requires easy access to care you trust.

The joys of living in a scenic but remote retirement mecca are diminished if you have to drive hundreds of miles — frequently — for expert care. So again, consider not only what you need today but what you’ll need in the future.

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3. How safe is this place?

Research crime rates in an area before deciding to relocate there. You’ll find plenty of free tools online.

Even the best sites, though, may have outdated information or fail to offer a complete look at a place. So, check data from local law-enforcement agencies. Some departments post their crime data online. Do a web search for words like: “Denver police department crime statistics.”

Look also for maps showing the prevalence of crime by area, and look for local news reports about crime in the city or town.

If you strike out searching online for crime data, call the local law-enforcement agency and ask how to learn about crime in specific neighborhoods.

And don’t stop there. Visit neighborhoods you’ve got your eye on numerous times, during the day and at night. Talk with many people — in coffee shops, hardware stores, parks and shops — until you feel you’ve got a good sense of the place.

4. How will I get around if I can’t drive?

At some point in their elder years, drivers have to face a hard truth: It may be time to hang up the car keys.

Moving in your later years means thinking ahead about the availability of public transportation, something that might not have mattered to you as a driver. So, check out articles like “The 30 U.S. Cities With the Best Public Transit.”

You might not want to retire in a metropolis. But bear in mind that wherever you are, you’ll probably need help with driving and shopping. So, look into senior services and transportation options. Steer clear of remote areas, however beautiful, unless you’ve got a sure means of transportation if you can’t drive.

If this is to be your last and best move, take time learning where you want to land. For more help researching neighborhoods, check out “20 Tips for Buying a Home in the Best Location, Location, Location.”

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