Retirement brings with it an unimaginable sense of freedom. You're no longer tied to school districts, commuter schedules, or alarm clocks. When you release longstanding duties and commitments, you can change your lifestyle and even your location. You can move to a new neighborhood, a new city, or even a new country. Or you can stay right where you are.
Should you go or should you stay? That's a big question that only you can answer. Here are some of the things you should consider before making your decision.
Housing that meets your physical needs It's easier to age in place when your home meets the comfort, convenience, and safety standards you require. Even if your home was built to comply with these "universal design" standards, you may wish to relocate for other reasons. Your home may be too big or small. As you age, you may be incapable of performing routine home maintenance. If you can't take care of your daily needs, you may require an assisted living facility or a senior community with essential services nearby.
A home you can afford If you choose to buy a new home, you'll want it to be affordable now and as you age. Your affordability calculations should consider your mortgage, taxes, utilities, insurance and other home expenses. They should also anticipate future income, medical expenses and the cost of living in your new location. As a retiring senior, your home is likely mortgage free with enough equity to increase your home buying options. Depending on your decision to upgrade, downgrade, or relocate, selling your home may give you all the money you need for a new home with some cash leftover to add to your retirement fund.
Access to healthcare facilities As you age, hospitals, doctors, and healthcare facilities become more important. Illnesses and disabilities increase as you age. When you anticipate relocating, you should make sure the community you choose provides a strong network of medical professionals.
A strong support system An AARP study determined that 43 percent of seniors 70 and older don't believe they'll be able to live independently. As a senior, you still have home living options that don't require you to abandon your independence altogether. You can upgrade your home for aging in place and rely on friends and homecare professionals to help you. You can buy a home closer to family members or purchase a home or condo in a planned senior community with access to the services you need.
Transportation independence Transportation is an important factor in your retirement housing decision. As a suburban or rural resident, you probably rely on driving your car. If an unexpected disability or illness forces you to stop driving, you probably won't want to call a family member every time you leave home. You must live where you'll have access to private cars, buses, van services, dial-a-ride, and other transportation services.
Livability index Knowing your city's livability may help you decide whether to go or stay. AARP's Livability Index page provides zip code based ratings that include neighborhood, environmental, transportation and other community factors critical to retirement living.
A new lifestyle Your retirement move doesn't have to be for practical reasons. If you live in the north you might want a warmer climate. You may want a chalet in the mountains or a condo near a golf or tennis club. If you've waited all your life for a new lifestyle and you can find a way to make it happen, that's one of the best reasons in the world to go instead of staying.