Choosing Your Retirement Locale

Featured Article,Retirement & Investing
September 9, 2013

When it comes to retirement, location is everything. Here's how to choose where you retire.

retired couple at beach
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People choose retirement locales for all sorts of reasons, some personal (like proximity to family), others more general (like weather). Below we’ve listed some of the most common options based on the sorts of opportunities they provide. We realize this list is a bit artificial: some places don’t fit neatly within any category, and some meet multiple criteria (for example, coastal Maine is scenic and also brings you proximity to activities like sailing and fishing). Cohort living (see Senior Community, page 43, and Naturally Occurring Retirement Community, page 46)—formal or informal—can take place just about anywhere. So this list below isn’t meant to be exhaustive, but just to get you thinking about possibilities:

  • Urban. Some retirees opt for urban settings—large cities (like New York) or smaller ones (like Cincinnati). Typically, an urban setting means apartment living, walkability, access to a wide variety of cultural opportunities, and (hopefully) decent public transportation.
  • Suburban. In most suburban areas, walkability is limited—you’ll have to access many goods and services by car. If you live near a commuter bus or train line, you can combine the extra space that usually comes with suburban living with access to urban cultural resources like concerts and museums.
  • Historic. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, has always attracted a large number of history buffs and retired military families; Sharpsburg, Maryland, would also fall into this category.
  • Scenic. Places like Sedona, Arizona, and the Napa Valley in California belong in the scenic group; we had a friend who moved to Missoula, Montana, for this reason as well. (Though after a couple of tough Montana winters, she relocated to a more temperate climate.)
  • Activity focused. Some retirees choose settings based on the availability of a particular activity (like boating or skiing).
  • Education focused. Increasingly, colleges and universities are offering educational programming designed specifically for retirees, and many retirement communities are building educational opportunities into their pitch.
  • Culture focused. We have a colleague—a skilled violinist—who’s retiring to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, because of the region’s extensive concert schedule. Other culture-focused retirement opportunities might involve access to museums, theater, or dance.
  • Cohort living: formal. Here we’re talking about settings like senior communities and continuing care communities—places specifically designed with older adults in mind. If living among age mates is important to you, this is one way to ensure that you’ll be surrounded by peers.
  • Cohort living: informal. A naturally occurring retirement community (NORC) would fall into this category, as would a group of friends who simply choose to retire close by each other.
  • Weather based. That’s why Florida has long been popular—and increasingly retirees are looking westward as well, to Arizona and New Mexico.

Born_How to Age in Place Reprinted with permission from How to Age in Place: Planning for a Happy, Independent, and Financially Secure Retirement by Mary A. Languirand, PhD, and Robert F. Bornstein, PhD (Ten Speed Press, © 2013).