How To Choose The Right Area To Retire In (unless you already live in OC – you have already made the right choice!)

Don't let retirement planning faze you, there's still a lot of living ahead!

With retirement comes the opportunity to make many life changing decisions, including how you will spend your time and where you will live. Interestingly generations are changing the definition of retirement and have shifting perspectives. The trend seems to be distinctly moving away from the notion of retiring at age 65, the standard retirement age when Social Security goes into effect.

You may be content to stay put, or you may decide it’s time to downsize or make a tree or sea change. Making the wrong decision can be both emotionally and financially expensive. So, before you take the leap, here are some steps to consider:

Understanding your retirement needs

Understanding why you want to move in the first place may help you make better decisions. Is it for financial reasons, such as to reduce costs? To downsize from an empty home that’s become too big for you or requires too much upkeep? To live in a better climate or to get away from the rat race and endless traffic? To be nearer family or friends? For health reasons? Or because you’d just like to make a complete change?

What are you looking for in retirement?

For example, to playing lots of pickelball or golf, spending more time on your hobbies or with your grandchildren, the opportunity to give back by volunteering, to living in the country side or close to the sea, to being in the heart of all the action (cinemas, cafes and theatre) or far from the madding crowd… What other amenities would you like to be close to in order to pursue your hobbies and interests, such as tennis courts, swimming pools, a fitness centre, art galleries, hiking trails, parks or the bowls club?

How do you want to live out your retirement?

How do you want to live – for example, in a retirement village, a house or a unit? How much space will you need and do you want a garden? Be clear on the pros and cons of each option.

Practicalities of moving 

Once you know what you want to do, it’s time to look for suitable areas and to do plenty of research on them. Remember that as wonderful as they were, the places where you holidayed may not be as great to live in every day. And that tree or sea change may not solve your problems, but could certainly create new ones for you.

Here are some factors to consider when assessing prospective areas to retire to:

Your budget: Are your retirement savings capable of providing the type of retirement living you envisage?

Property prices: How much does the type of property you want to live in cost in that area? Can you afford it and how will living in that area affect your budget? If the retirement property is likely to cost less than your current home, how can you use the extra money to better fund your golden years?

Cost of living: How do prices in your selected area compare with what you are used to paying and how could that affect your retirement budget?

Healthcare: Are there adequate medical services in the area, including doctors, dentists, radiologists, pathologists and pharmacists? Is there a good hospital close by if you get sick or injured? Some regional and rural areas struggle to attract good medical practitioners or aren’t big enough to support a local hospital.

Distance from family and friends: You don’t want to lose touch with the most important people in your life or miss your grandchildren’s milestones. You also want your loved ones to be easily able to get to you if you need help.

Transport: Is there an airport or station close by? As you get older, you may want to travel more or may no longer be able to drive. Plus, you don’t want it to be too difficult for family and friends to visit you or for it to become too expensive for you to visit them as often as you’d like.

Access: Does the area lack any of the amenities that you enjoy using, such as a shopping centre, supermarkets, restaurants, cinema, library, sports facilities and so on?

Social compatibility: Will you fit in with the people living in the area and will you be able to make friends easily?

Before you buy property

Once you’ve selected an area you believe is right for you, it’s best to visit and to talk to as many people there as possible. The experts also advise renting a property before buying. That’s because idyllic holiday spots may become boring after a while or you may find the people in the area unfriendly or cliquey. Perhaps you only visited in the summer, but now you discover that the winters are too cold or there’s not much happening outside peak holiday periods. After living there a while, you might also discover that a different part of town, or even the next town, is a better option for you personally.

Also, before you buy, make sure the property will meet your needs as you age – for example, will you be able to walk up all those stairs or that steep driveway when you are 80 years old? Or still maintain the garden at that age? If you can no longer drive, is there transport close by to take you to the local shopping centre, doctors, RSL or church? And how easy will it be to sell if you need to move to an aged care facility or nursing home? And is there an aged care facility or nursing home nearby or will you have to make a whole new move again?

Making a mistake by buying the wrong property can be expensive. In addition to paying transfer tax on your purchase, you will have to fork out commission for the real estate agent when you sell. And you might have to sell your property at a lower price than you paid for it if market conditions change. So it pays to do your homework first and ask lots of questions.


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