Where do you plan to retire?

I began looking at a list of “worst states to retire in” at Bankrate.com and it struck me then how badly people are misled by books, magazines and internet sites.  They chose the following criteria:

  • High life expectancy
  • Low crime rate
  • Where people are prosperous

Do these make sense as a way of choosing your retirement location?

First, average life expectancy is a statistic that is much more affected by the death rate of young people than old people.  Second, by the time you are ready to retire your lifestyle and heredity has the biggest impact on how long you will live and the average age of the people around has no impact at all.

The crime rate is another flawed statistic.  Detroit and Chicago are some of the most crime ridden cities in the country, but you can find areas in and around these cities that are virtually crime free.   To assign a crime rate to an area the size of a state, and make a retirement decision based on that is nonsense.

The prosperity of people in a state is another spurious reason for moving to an area for retirees.  In fact, there are good reasons for avoiding “prosperous” areas.  They are often associated with astronomical real estate prices, high taxes and high cost of living.  Want to live in Sausalito, Beverly Hills or even the better parts of Manhattan?  Bring big buck and prepare to spend them.

How do people really choose where they want to live in retirement?  The number one reason for choosing a retirement home is proximity to family, usually the children.  The other issues are climate (the reason so many Northerners move to Florida), the cost of living (including taxes) and access to medical care.  An interesting trend is retiring in low-cost parts of Mexico or Central America.

Choosing a retirement community is a big decision and we have seen a number of examples of retirees who changed their minds after moving.  Keep your options open, especially if you are moving to areas that are new to you.  Take time to settle in and decide if this is where you want to spend the rest of your life.

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