Where you live is important. This seems to be a burning question for many of us at retirement age. I hear it from my clients and my friends and I’ve been thinking about it myself. Urban or suburban? Mountains and forest or ocean and sand? Near my family or as far away as possible? House? Gated community? Sprawling apartment complex? Old or new? So many issues, so little time!
Here are three lists to get you started thinking about your surroundings.
List 1: What do I want in my surroundings?
- physical layout (think about stairs, for instance),
- amount of space,
- own or rent,
- view or no view,
- city, suburbs or country,
- access to transportation,
- price range (including extra charges like maintenance, heat, water and electricity),
- access to activities (try to be realistic about the things you actually DO not the ones you’ve always thought you might do),
- access to friends,
- access to medical providers, climate,
- keep adding your own items.
List 2 – What do I absolutely need?
This list includes your bare minimum requirements winnowed down from list #1. It should also include cost factors – I can’t spend more than $XXXX.
List 3 – What do I absolutely NOT want?
You may be surprised by what shows up here. Maybe you don’t want to ever shovel snow or have upstairs neighbors or be within spittin’ distance of your relatives.
Use these three lists to research every possible location. Take good notes on how each meets your criteria. Try your top three on for size before you make a big decision, if you can. Use the suggestions below during your trial visit:
Look for a socioeconomic match – feel comfortable that you can live well within your means.
Identify local groups that share your passion – hiking, cooking, theater – there’s a group for almost anything.
Observe the social networks to see if they meet your needs – think about how much interaction you want or need. How much time do the neighbors spend chatting? Must you join in? Is there pressure to become part of the local church or temple? The neighborhood association? Does everyone maintain a strict isolationist policy?
Read the local papers to see if the area activities appeal to you. This is a great way to pick up information about the tone and values of the area as well.
Visit your new neighbors to begin to develop a network. This also may uncover nasty surprises – like howling dogs or chain smokers directly below you.
Invite people in for a meal or to join you at a local eatery – dinner, a weekend brunch – make it casual and easy and allow for lots of interaction.
Get involved early – be a guest at clubs, civic or religious organizations, a book club or special interest group. Join a local friend in a volunteer activity. Check out the gym or club.
I’ve been visiting retired friends over the past several months and can attest to the power of location. Those who chose well are involved in all kinds of new activities as well as being able to continue those they’ve always loved. A few have become much nicer human beings away from the stressors in their old environment. Some chose poorly and are miserable, fighting with stairs or financial constraints or noise or undesirable neighbors.
Who will you be?