12 Critical Questions To Ask Yourself When Deciding Where To Retire

Choosing your retirement haven? Ask yourself these 12 vital questions first.

senior couple moving to a new home
Updated July 18, 2024
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There are plenty of questions you’ll want to ask yourself about investments and leisure time as you plan for retirement.

Another important issue to consider is where you want to live. You may want to stay put or move somewhere else. Perhaps you’re considering a local move or an international move.

But before you pack up your home, here are some key questions you need to ask to better understand where you want to go.

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Do I want to move anywhere?

shurkin_son/Adobe woman using tablet on couch

One of the first things you should consider is if you even want to move somewhere.

Retirement doesn’t mean you have to move. There are many reasons why you may decide that staying where you are is the best way to stay financially fit.

You may have paid off your home, or you can still afford to live in the same neighborhood where prices have gone up drastically. It may also be a good location or a good home. 

It’s also important to consider your connection to your community and whether you want to start over somewhere else if you move.

Do I want to be closer to family?

Nicholas Felix/peopleimages.com/Adobe senior woman looking at a photograph

Retirement means you may be able to spend more time with your family, which could factor into your decision to move.

Consider your kids or grandkids and whether being close to them is important to you. It’s also a good idea to factor in siblings or your parents who may need additional care now that they’re older.

What can I afford?

LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/Adobe senior couple sitting at home as counting money

Consider what kind of home you can afford when you retire. Factor in not just the cost of the home but additional costs, such as utilities, property taxes, or the cost of living in the area you want to move to.

Don’t forget about additional fees, such as HOA fees, that may come with a home in a particular area or if the home you want is in a retirement community.

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Have I visited different communities?

insta_photos/Adobe Older man enjoying a view

You may have a particular place you think you want to move to, but have you spent some time in that area? Take some trips and visit different locations to help you decide which areas best fit your needs.

You may be set on a particular location only to find out that you don’t like it once you actually live there, which could cause financial issues and frustrations if you have to move again.

Do I want to live internationally?

Song_about_summer/Adobe senior couple enjoying scooter ride

Some Americans consider international locations for their retirement home since some benefits depend on the location. Some countries may have a lower cost of living than the U.S. or lower tax breaks for retirees.

Do your research to figure out the issues involved with moving abroad, and think about life issues that may be different, such as health care, cost of living, and purchasing real estate.

What kind of activities do I like?

pressmaster/Adobe Senior couple skiing

You may have hobbies or interests you’ll want to pursue when you’re retired, so consider how those interests can affect where you decide to move.

A more natural location could be a way for you to get outdoors to hike or bike more, or you could live closer to an urban area and enjoy cultural activities like museums, art, or restaurants.

How is my health?

Dragana Gordic nurse assisting senior man to get up from bed

Your health could play a role in where you decide to move. Factor in issues you may have that can affect where you choose to live.

Mobility issues could be a good reason to buy a ranch-style home or live somewhere that doesn’t require walking. You may have seasonal allergies, making a climate with fewer trees more appealing.

You should also factor in access to medical facilities you may need during retirement to decide if it’s better to be closer to doctors and hospitals.

Do I want to travel?

Yakobchuk Olena/Adobe old lady is sitting on bench

If your retirement plans include traveling to different places, consider getting a home with easy access to airports or highways.

You may also want to consider living somewhere such as an apartment building, which has someone watching over your place if you’re gone for long periods.

Do I have an estimated retirement budget?

Zamrznuti tonovi/Adobe Happy and relaxed senior couple sitting at table in their lounge and gladly looking at the blue prints of their new home

A budget is an important piece of your financial planning when you’re working and when you’re retired.

Create an estimated retirement budget now so you know exactly how much you’ll need in different living situations when you’re retired.

Factor in the cost of your home and everyday expenses like utilities and groceries. Consider the cost of living for a particular area and save extra cash to cover those costs.

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Do I want to live in a retirement community?

Monkey Business/Adobe retired couple sitting on bench

There are retirement communities and other communities that specifically cater to older homeowners.

That type of living situation may appeal to you because you’ll be close to other homeowners in your situation. Your community may even have events or activities that appeal to retirees, such as sports, classes, or activities with other community members.

On the other hand, you may prefer living in a more traditional neighborhood with families or activities that allow you to interact with a diverse age group. 

Retirement communities may also have HOA fees for additional activities, which may not appeal to you or work within your budget.

What about taxes?

fizkes/Adobe calculating domestic expenses

Taxes can play a major role when you’re deciding which community or state to live in.

You’ll want to review the tax laws for different states when it comes to your retirement income. Some states may tax your retirement withdrawals, while others may allow you to collect Social Security without taxing it.

You should also factor in property taxes depending on where you want to live. These additional taxes could be an issue if you’re in an area with a high property tax rate.

Do I want to downsize?

Srdjan/Adobe cheerful senior man dancing to headphones

Downsizing can be a good way to save money when you retire so you may want to consider selling your home and moving to a smaller place.

Perhaps your children are grown and have moved out, which means you don’t need the extra space. You may also want to cut down on utility bills to avoid wasting money

And you’ll want to think about property taxes for your particular home and if you can reduce that cost if you move somewhere else.

Bottom line

fizkes/Adobe senior married couple clapping hands

It can be exciting to plan your retirement, especially if you retire early. Where you decide to live can be an important piece in your retirement plan.

Make sure you have enough money for your retirement expenses. Include an emergency fund in a high-yield savings account or risk-averse investment in case you need cash to cover living expenses or one-time emergencies wherever you decide to live.

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Jenny Cohen

Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.