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How to Pick the Best Place to Retire

Illustration of a street of houses with a car in one of the driveways — for an article about how to pick the best place to retire.

By JIM MILLER

(SAVVY SENIOR) If you’re interested in relocating when you retire, a wide variety of books and online resources can help you find and research new locations that meet your wants, needs, and budget.

Where to Retire?

If you’re at the beginning of your search, a good starting point is to take the “Find Your Best Place” retirement quiz at Sperling’s Best Places (BestPlaces.net/fybp). Their free quiz asks 10-questions on your preferences such as climate, recreation, community size and more, and suggests possible destinations that match your answers.

MarketWatch also has a new matchmaking tool called, “Where’s the best place for me to retire?” at MarketWatch.com/graphics/best-place-to-retire.

Media resources like U.S. News & World Report, Kiplinger’s, Forbes, and Money Magazine also publish “best places to retire” lists on their websites each year.

You should also consider getting a copy of “America’s 100 Best Places to Retire” (the sixth edition book; $20 at Amazon.com) that looks at a range of destinations, and groups some in categories like best college towns, mountain towns, undiscovered towns and main street towns.

Once you find a few areas that interest you, your next step is research them. Here are some important areas you need to investigate.

Cost of living: Can you afford to live comfortably in the location where you want to retire? Numbeo.com and BestPlaces.net offers tools to compare the cost of living from your current location to where you would like to move. They compare housing costs, food, utilities, transportation and more.

Taxes: Some states are more tax friendly than others. If you’re planning to move to another state, Kiplinger’s has a tax guide for retirees at Kiplinger.com/links/retireetaxmap that lets you find and compare taxes state-by-state. It covers income taxes, sales tax, taxes on retirement income, Social Security benefits taxes, property taxes, and inheritance and estate taxes.

Crime rate: To evaluate how safe a community or area is, websites like AreaVibes.com provide crime data for certain localities.

Climate: To research the climate in the areas you’re interested in moving, Sperling’s Best Places is again a great resource that offers a climate/weather compare tool BestPlaces.net/climate.

Healthcare: Does the area you want to relocate have easy access to good healthcare? To locate and research doctors and hospitals in a new area, use Medicare’s compare tool at Medicare.gov/care-compare. Also see Healthgrades.com, which provides detailed information on U.S. hospitals and doctors.

Transportation: If you plan to travel much or expect frequent visits from your kids or grandkids, convenient access to an airport or train station is a nice advantage. You should also investigate alternative transportation options, since most retirees give up driving in their 80s. To do this visit RidesInSight.org, a free website that provides information about senior transportation options in local communities throughout the United States.

Test it Out

Once you have narrowed your choices down to two or three locations, spend a couple weeks in each place, at different times of the year, so you can get a feel for the seasonal weather changes and to carefully weigh the pros and cons of living there. You may find you like the area more as a vacation spot than as a year-round residence. It’s also a good idea to rent for a year before buying a home or making a commitment to a retirement community. MSN

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

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