As our retirement years approach, one question is usually at the front of our minds: Do I stay where I am currently living or do I move? Two of the biggest considerations are whether you can continue to afford living in your current location and whether your house will meet your physical needs. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I know several friends who aren't sure they can afford to live here when they retire. Even though they have solid retirement funds, they are all considering moving to a less expensive place. That's completely understandable.
To help answer this question and give insight into the factors one should consider, I turned to John Brady, president of TopRetirements.com, a popular website that provides boomers a wide variety of resources about where to live in retirement, as well as retirement planning ideas.
Question: How should someone determine if they should stay in their current home\location to retire, or if they should consider moving?
Answer: "This is perhaps the most fundamental decision that retirees face. The type of home you live in and where it is located can have a profound impact on your retirement lifestyle. Most people are comfortable living where they have always lived, so it is a big deal to consider moving. There is hassle, expense, and the fear and uncertainty of moving to the unknown. But my feeling is that everyone should answer the question, even if the ultimate decision is stay. The big factors that affect this decision are:
Budget -- Are you worried you won't have enough money to maintain your pre-retirement lifestyle? If so, you can move to a different home and/or locale and save enough money to keep up your lifestyle.
Your abilities -- The key here is to start thinking longer term, because if you are lucky, you will live to a nice old age. You might be able to clean the gutters and mow the lawn now, but how will you feel about jobs like those in 15 or 20 years? What happens if you or your spouse can't walk up the stairs to an upstairs bedroom, or if your home has multiple levels to go up and down? If you can no longer drive, how will you go shopping? A good plan is to make one move early, or at least go to a location where you can transition to independent or assisted living without having to make a major move in your old age.
Social -- In old age, living alone in a suburban home is a good recipe for loneliness. Unless you are a hermit or make younger friends very easily, moving to a place with a built-in social life, like an active community, co-housing community, or downtown apartment, might be a better plan. Some retirees move to be near their children or friends.
Activities and climate -- Can you do all of the things you like to do year-round where you live now? If so, staying might be a good idea. But if warm weather pursuits are important to you, consider moving to a warmer climate. Likewise, if you hate the cold. But if you like to ski... "
Question: What are some costs people often overlook when considering a move for retirement?
Answer: "The big costs that almost every expert brings up are medical expenses. Almost no one budgets for them, but if you have even an average lifespan they can be enormous. Factor in living in a nursing home or having a homecare attendant, and you get to really big numbers. The thing is, no one can predict if you will need these services or not. But if you are not prepared, it is a disaster. According to Fidelity, an average retired couple age 65 in 2019 may need approximately $285,000 saved (after tax) to cover health care expenses in retirement. Travel and entertainment expenses are easy to underestimate, particularly if you have planned bucket-list trips or like to go out to dinner, now that you have more time to enjoy these things. Finally, It is not likely that your expenses will decline as much as you think."
Question: Should someone rent in the area they are considering moving to before buying a home?
Answer: "Absolutely! I don't know how many times someone on the Topretirements.com site has made a comment along the lines of, "If I had only rented for a while I would have realized that .. was so far from everything... the people were so... etc.). Stay-and-Play packages offered by many active or 55+ communities are great for getting an on the ground picture of a place to retire. But, buying a place impulsively is often a very big mistake. Renting has the huge advantage of giving you an automatic out if you don't like what you see."
Read more from TopRetirements.com: