The Pros and Cons of Relocating for Retirement

August 2, 2017

Are you thinking of relocating for retirement? If so, think carefully. While relocating may offer a long list of benefits, there are likely some important negatives lurking in the background. For that reason, we’ve compiled a list of the pros and cons of relocating for retirement. Carefully consider each factor, and how important it is to you.

The Pros of Relocating for Retirement

Lower housing costs

In most households, housing is the single biggest cost. If you’re able to lower that cost, you can substantially improve the quality of your life in retirement.

There are two ways that you can lower your housing expense:

  1. Trade-down to a less expensive home, and/or
  2. Move to an area where housing costs are lower.

Relocation often accomplishes both goals. You’re moving from a larger house in a higher cost area to a smaller home in a lower cost area. That can often result in a substantial reduction in your housing expense. The savings are even more pronounced if the trade-down puts you in a position to purchase a new home without the need for a mortgage.

Lower living expenses in general

It’s not coincidental that areas, where house prices are lower, are often the same places where living expenses are lower in general. This can be especially pronounced in areas with large populations of retirees since those regions are heavily populated by people looking specifically to lower expenses.

Some common commodities, like gasoline, utilities, and new-car prices might be relatively stable nationwide. But other costs, like house prices, insurance, taxes and entertainment costs may be substantially lower in certain areas. Lower expenses will enable retirement savings to go farther.

Better weather

Apart from finances, the weather is often one of the major factors driving relocation in retirement. This is typical for people who live in cold-weather areas, and want to relocate to the Sunbelt where winters are less severe.

Sometimes the search for an area with better weather is related to health. For example, a person with respiratory problems might seek out the drier climate of a state like Arizona. A person who has limited mobility may prefer living someplace like Florida, to get away from snow and ice.

Living closer to desirable amenities

For many people, relocation retirement is about creating a preferred lifestyle. If you’re a skier, that could mean moving to Colorado. But if you always wanted to live at the beach, but weren’t able to because of work, retirement could offer an opportunity to move to a state like Florida, where you can take advantage of extensive beaches year-round.

Just making a much-needed lifestyle change

This is an often overlooked factor driving retirement relocation. If you’re looking to add more adventure to your life, the kind that retirement will allow, making a geographic move could be highly desirable. It will put you into a different lifestyle, in a different location, and that will force you to create a different way of living.

The Cons of Relocating for Retirement

Leaving family and friends behind

This is probably the biggest sacrifice when it comes to relocation. If most of your family and friends are located where you currently live, relocating could be very difficult emotionally. You’ll be going from a place where you’re surrounded by people who you know and love, to another location where you may not know anyone.

Leaving a familiar home and territory behind

Sometimes the familiarity relates to physical space. That includes both your current home and the community where you live. The attachment would be even more significant if you lived in the home and the community for several decades.

Though it may seem exciting to pick up and start over someplace else, or it might even be financially necessary, loosening those emotional ties will be difficult. For some it will be impossible, such that even if relocating makes a lot of sense from a financial standpoint, they’re still unable to make a move.

Adding yet another major change to time already rich in major changes

When you retire, you go through some fundamental changes in life. For starters, you detach from the occupation that you may have held all of your life. For another, you lose the social aspect of work. You might even lose an important sense of purpose. And it goes without saying that your day-to-day life will change radically.

If you add relocation to that mix, it could be more than you can handle. It might be best to retire and adjust to the new lifestyle, and then relocate a couple of years later. That would enable you to spread out a series of dramatic changes.

The cost of the move

This is another unappreciated obstacle to relocation. There are significant costs involved in making a move. It starts with traveling to a new location several times, to research and feel out the area, and evaluate it as a place to live.

And once you actually make a move, you will incur the costs of moving your possessions. Unless you are able to do a self-move, it can cost many thousands of dollars to hire a moving company. If you’ve spent 30 or 40 years in the same house, you probably have a lot more possessions than you ever realized. No one ever does, until they start emptying their basement, their garage in their closets. It can be overwhelming.

Depending on where you live now, relocating may not be less expensive

Not everyone will save money by relocating. If you live in an area where both housing costs and living expenses, in general, are lower than the national average, it’s entirely possible that most of the areas that you would consider relocating to will be more expensive.

This can create a financial situation that is the reverse of what you’re hoping to accomplish. You may find that you’ll have to take a larger mortgage if you move to an area where house prices are a lot higher than where you live now. That would defeat the purpose of the relocation.

If you’re considering relocating in retirement, carefully evaluate every aspect of the move. In addition to crunching the money numbers, closely consider those other factors, like familiarity and proximity to family and friends. Relocation is a big deal, and you should never take it lightly.

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