Here at AgingOptions we encounter people all the time who think a solid retirement plan means a financial plan. Others seem to think that the only thing that matters is the right medical insurance coverage. These are important, of course, but one of the most important questions of all is also one of the most basic: where do you want to live once you’re retired?
We found a helpful and intriguing approach to this question in this recent article from the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Written by Seattle-based reporter Chris Kornelis, the article goes straight to the heart of the matter. “It’s one of the most basic questions people ask themselves when they start planning for retirement,” writes Kornelis: “Where am I going to live?” Surprisingly, in his observation, “many people don’t give a lot of thought” to this crucial question. “Sure, they ask themselves some cursory questions—especially about the weather and affordability. But they rarely delve very deeply, even though making the right choice can offer a greater chance of having a more fulfilling life.”
So the Wall Street Journal’s advice, before you start fantasizing about moving to your favorite vacation spot or mountain hide-away, is to start by asking yourself some key questions – nine of them, to be exact. Your answers to this self-exam might very likely help you narrow your choices, and quite possibly cause you to eliminate some places you might have thought were more desirable than they turned out to be. Here are the Journal’s nine questions – see if they help you narrow your choices about your future address in retirement.
- “What do you want to do?” This simple starter question, writes Kornelis, is “one surprisingly few people ask themselves. They may have some superficial sense about where they want to live, without thinking first about what kind of life they want.” Retirement offers a chance at a fresh start where people can reinvent themselves, but first they have to be completely honest about what they’re seeking. “That honesty isn’t easy,” says Kornelis, “in part because what somebody wants in retirement may be totally different from what they believed they wanted when they were younger.”
- “Is Skype close enough to your grandchildren?” These days some retirees think technology can solve the problem of living far from family. “People often misjudge the distance they’re putting between themselves and their families,” the Journal “They think that between Skype, text messaging and ‘just jumping on an airplane,’ they will remain close.” The reality turns out to be far different, so if staying involved with family is important to you, it’s likely better to avoid that expensive move away from those you love only to have to undo it a few years later.
- “Are you open to renting?” ere H Here’s some good advice from the article: try living somewhere for a while before you move there, especially if it’s a favorite vacation spot. “Renting can give people a chance to see the area from the perspective of a residential neighborhood, not a hotel,” the article says. Even if a long-term rental doesn’t appeal to you, thanks to Airbnb you can easily experience neighborhood life for a few weeks or months. “They can then get the feeling of the part of town they’re likely to live in, as opposed to going to bed at night by the beach or downtown,” says the
- “Will your doctor accept Medicare?” One gerontologist quoted in the Journal article states that “finding a health-care provider in retirement should be a major point of discussion.” That’s because “It’s difficult to find a doctor that you’re compatible with when you move to a new city and have a half-dozen prescriptions.” Don’t assume you’ll easily find the health care provider you’re looking for!
- “How are you going to get an ice cream cone?” This sounds like a frivolous question, but it actually relates to the fact that an enjoyable life is made up of little day to day pleasures like being able to get a cup of coffee or a fun dessert close to home. Are these types of services close by? Will you be able to access them in the future without your own car?
- “How are you going to change your light bulbs?” In other words, you may be able to take care of the place you’re moving to when you’re 65 or even 70, but what about when you’re 85? Will the services you need be close at hand and reasonably affordable?
- “Who are you going to have lunch with?” This is a crucial question. One aging expert quoted in the Journal article calls isolation “the greatest pandemic facing an aging society.” As we get older, we often lose energy and mobility which means we’re likely to get out less. Because of this, a big part of our retirement planning should involve placing ourselves in the flow of new friends and relationships. That quiet, isolated cabin on the lake, in other words, may not be the best retirement location after all.
- “How busy is this place going to get?” This question simply involves visualizing what your chosen community might look like in a decade or two. After all, if you want to move there, chances are other people do, too. Can you cope with future changes, traffic, and growth?
- “What’s wrong with where I live now?” The Wall Street Journal’s Kornelis calls this “the most important question people should ask” when it comes to choosing where to live. In spite of people’s expectations about moving, one economist states that about 85 percent of retirees end up remaining in the area where they raised their families. “Moving to, say, a warmer climate may sound appealing, but people should think about what they’ll be leaving behind, and if they would trade a lifetime of friends, family, cultural institutions and familiar roads for more days of sun a year.” Good observation!
As we said above, deciding where to live is an important facet of retirement planning. But it’s not a decision that can be made in a vacuum. Retirement planning that is truly comprehensive and thorough encompasses what we at AgingOptions consider the five most critical elements of retirement: housing, finances, medical, legal and family. Put all these together into one well-developed plan and you have what we call an AgingOptions LifePlan – the only truly holistic and complete retirement plan we know of. It’s your blueprint to help you live the fruitful and secure retirement you’ve always hoped for.
No matter where you are in the retirement planning process, we invite you to invest a few hours and learn more about the power of a LifePlan. Join Rajiv Nagaich at an upcoming LifePlanning Seminar – an information-packed session that will cause you to think about retirement planning in a brand new way. Click here for our Upcoming Events page where you can register online for the free seminar of your choice, or call us for assistance. Let us help you put all the retirement pieces together, with a LifePlan from AgingOptions.
(originally reported at www.wallstreetjournal.com)