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5 Questions To Ask Before You Move

Even though only a small percentage of folks decide to move shortly after retirement, it remains a topic of real interest to many blog readers. Part of the image we carry into retirement is a move to a beach side cottage or mountain chalet. We leave behind cold weather or the desert heat and live out our years of freedom in a place that keeps appearing in our dreams.

One of my most emphatic cautions to someone who has recently retired is to not move right away. There are so many adjustments retirement requires that to add the stress of a relocation is dangerous to one's health and happiness. Certainly, after careful consideration and time, moving to a place that would make someone happy is encouraged. 

Even then, there are five key questions that need to be asked. If living with someone, his or her responses are just as important. To move when only half of a couple agrees can lead to an unhappy environment. 

1) How much will you miss the familiarity of where you live now? 

If you live someplace long enough I'm sure you'd had this feeling: the car could drive itself by now. Where you do your grocery shopping, where the movie theater and home improvement stores are, which are the best nearby parks, how close are  the doctors' offices you visit, your church, your favorite restaurants, even how the streets are named and laid out....all these patterns of daily life give us comfort. Patterns and familiarity are two character traits all humans share.

When you move, all that changes. Some people find that newness exciting; it stimulates them. Others become frustrated and critical: the stores were better at home, I can't remember where the streets go, our only choice to eat out is at chain restaurants, and so on.

Don't discount the role of familiarity in your satisfaction. Consider how important it is to your happiness before giving it up.

2) Will moving make seeing family easier or harder? 

Not surprisingly, one of the key reasons retirees eventually move is because of family. Often, the motivation is to be closer to grown children, grandkids, or other relatives. Occasionally, it is the opposite: to establish some breathing space and escape from too much closeness. Either motivations needs discussion. Ask yourself if you are moving to something, or away from something.

Moving closer to family means more time with each other. Shared birthdays, holidays, and special occasions are easier to schedule. Maybe you'd like to help with babysitting or transportation needs. Very possibility, you sense that the grandkids don't really know you very well or see you often enough to form a real bond.

The flipside are folks who have experienced all of that closeness, and now want to cut back on the sense of obligation and regular contact. Even loving families need time apart, If you feel your closeness is being taken advantage of, then moving far enough away to make a return visit a special occasion may be exactly what is best. 

3) Will you enjoy the new climate full time? 

The idea of living by the ocean, dressed in a T-shirt, bathing suit, and flipflops every day of your life sounds perfect to many. Being a stone's through from a ski resort with all those beautifully groomed trails makes your heart race. Making your home in a location with all four seasons sounds heavenly after years in someplace that is lucky to have two (think Phoenix, Miami, or Southern California!). That two weeks you spent on Kauai convinced you heaven on earth does exist.

Moving for a change in the climate is a reason often given. The reality is, however, that the change you want may be too much of a good thing. If you haven't shoveled snow for several decades, lived with air conditioning for 9 months of the year, or endured months of cloudy, rainy skies, you may find your dream becomes a nightmare when it is your forever home. 

I strongly recommend you rent an apartment, condo, or home, for at least a full year before committing to a permanent relocation. 

4) Are there good medical and support systems?

Finding a new doctor or dentist is never a pleasant task. With the state of our healthcare system, moving to another part of the country becomes even more of a chore, if you are not yet qualified for Medicare. Does my insurance company operate in that locale? Are there enough doctors and specialists who are accepting new patients? 

While the dream of relocating to a rural area, living on a few acres, and being away from the suburban hassle may sound idyllic, consider the availability of medical care. Being far away from a clinic or hospital can be a very real problem. Being miles from the closest doctor may be a deal breaker.

5) Is the cost of living within your budget?

As much as you and your significant other may love the idea of  urban living in San Francisco, New York City, San Diego, or Honolulu, the cost of housing in those markets means many retirees could not even consider such a move. Do you just want a small fixer upper in the Bay Area? Do you have close to a million dollars? Honolulu is a relative bargain: $600,000 should get you a tiny place within a mile or two of the water. Of course, with those sky high housing costs come higher prices for everyday necessities. Apartment and condo prices are just as shocking.

The opposite situation drives some to move to other parts of the country. Housing prices in parts of the Midwest, Great Plains and South can be a bargain. You may be able to afford the home or land of your dreams for much less than what housing costs you now. 

Don't forget utility costs. Heating, cooling, water...all the costs to keep your new home comfortable should be carefully reviewed. And, property taxes can be quite a shock. Tens of thousands of dollars a year in real estate taxes can punch a major hole in your budget if you used to paying much less.

A move is considered to be one of the most stressful things we can do. That is doubly true after retirement. The costs and upheaval of relocating should not be ignored. That said, if you are comfortable with the answers to the questions above, crave a fresh start and are exciting by the possibilities of change, then go for it. Being unhappy where you are is no prescription for a satisfying retirement, either.


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