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Considering Relocation in Retirement? Know Your Preferences, Do Your Research and Make Your Plan

By Jane Sawyer November 05, 2023 Lifestyle

We’ve heard retirement referred to as the “golden years,” the “autumn in life,” or the “third act,” and ideal lifestyles ranging from active to passive and energetic to idle. Destinations abroad await some, while tango lessons, writing memoirs, pickleball, and more time with grandchildren await others.

One woman jokes retirement is having “twice as much husband with half as much money,” while another career woman smiles at thoughts of being able to languish in bed most mornings. Improving health, physical flexibility and longevity rank high, as do plans to volunteer, garden, start a small business or just keep working – maybe part time.

We Are Far from the 90s

When unforeseen circumstances occur, including divorce, death of a loved one, an unexpected health condition, or a financial calamity, they re-define the future.

With the over-50 divorce rates in the US roughly doubling since the 1990s (according to Pew Research Center,) pandemic-induced remote work persisting and even trending permanent in the US, and technology changing how people worldwide work in the 21st Century, what retirement plans Baby Boomers set early in their careers may have altered drastically by today.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Research

Whether you are in the US, UK, or elsewhere, and long to retire to an idyllic tropical scene visited during long ago vacations; move closer to family members, grandchildren, and long-time friends; or are staring at a low-balance bank account and your projected income appears inadequate, pulling up stakes for a relocation retirement may suddenly sound more appealing.

The decision to relocate in retirement has many faces, and perhaps the only thing we might agree on is it is different for everyone!

The amount of information about the topic of relocating in retirement abounds. We can look at traditional business-focused magazines for articles that rank retirement states and countries; find out about expat communities and affordable retirement locations from websites/organizations like Transitions Abroad or Americans Abroad or several others to be found searching Google.

We can confer with a personal retirement coach and turn to retirement organizations like AARP, or the pension authority in the last EU country where employed. We can also ask a financial planner, talk with retired friends, or read what others are doing on their blogs and listen to their podcasts.

Real estate professionals always encourage buyers to visit prospective locations, and preferably during different seasons, while others encourage retirees to rent before making a permanent move.

For example, there is a podcast entitled “Repurpose Your Career” on, where a freelance writer and mother of adult children discusses her thought process and the steps she took to find an apartment in Porto, Portugal, establish her business, and move.

Owner and publisher of CareerPivot, Marc Miller (and his spouse), moved from the US to live in Ajijic, ­­­­Mexico. Mexico and Portugal both appear on lists of affordable retirement countries.

I have a family member who, at 77, relocated from San Diego, CA to Coeur d’Alene, ID where he’s experienced a 40% increase in rent since moving to what he’d hoped would be more “affordable” living six years ago.

Real estate prices rose in many places; in some locations over 20! There has been a veritable land rush to small cities in the US Mountain states for affordable housing.

All this is to say, seek current information.

Know Your Preferences and Values

A clear understanding of personal values and preferences, along with knowledge of how to research locations is essential. Browsing websites, reading newsletters, talking to residents, watching selected YouTube channels, and exploring locations in person can all be helpful.

If you are considering retirement or winding down your career in another geographic area, what is motivating that decision? While many do relocate during retirement, 90% of 50-plus-year-olds say they wish to age in place. Consider the factors below and decide, how would you prioritize them?

  • Community: pride; location; diversity & inclusiveness
  • Community: other seniors, spiritual/religious group
  • Recreational opportunities
  • Local transportation and municipal services available
  • Climate: weather/seasonal differences with adherent heating/cooling costs
  • Proximity to family
  • Adequate health care resources like major/minor healthcare/assisted living
  • Access to international airport
  • Quality of life: libraries, parks, entertainment, college or university
  • Available technology to work from distance, or employers to sustain a job in retirement
  • Quality of life: proximity to grocery, eateries, meal services, theater, art scene
  • Affordability: taxes, property maintenance, cost of living
  • Other

Account for Possible, Unanticipated Changes

Despite the best laid plans as life can certainly intercede. I can tell the story of friends who ranked their priorities as:

  1. Proximity to family
  2. Adequate healthcare facilities and
  3. Climate

Thus, they ended up moving to join their daughter and young grandchildren in San Diego, CA. All went well for three years, even while the woman was diagnosed with life-altering heart disease, and until the son-in-law was laid off his job. The young family needed to make a career move back to the east coast, and the retired couple then returned to Chicago shortly thereafter.

Relocation in retirement has always been a fascinating topic. Whether we see the grass being greener on the other side of the fence, come upon the decision in an impulse, or on slow burn, knowing our priorities and preferences, doing good research and making solid plans should help.

Author’s Note: While writing this piece, someone reminded me of the Alcoholics Anonymous notion that “Pulling a Geographic” is essentially trying to solve an internal problem with an external solution; it doesn’t work. “Wherever you go, there you are” is another way to say this, and it might encourage us all to take a deep breath, focus on our glasses being half full this holiday season and returning to the Mindset column for emotional sustenance.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Is retirement relocation in your future plans? Where would you like to go? Have you done your research, made your plans and evaluated your priorities? What have you learned about yourself in the process?

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I grew up in San Diego, CA. My husband and I have been RVers traveling full time for the past 22 years. We aren’t quite ready to settle down, but we will be in a few years. I’ve learned that Southern California is my home. I feel more at home there than in any other place we’ve been. We’ve already put down the foundation of returning there when our travels slow down.

The Author

Jane Sawyer writes about aging, retirement, business and careers. After leaving higher education, executive outplacement, and her chemo hat/scarf business, she wrote profiles about seniors living healthy, active lifestyles for the Successful Aging newsletter at the UC San Diego Center for Healthy Aging, as well as for her new blog,

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