retirement

As Retirement Looms, So Does Questions of Moving

Each of the places in our cover story has attributes that are high on retirees’ wish lists.

I’m at least five years from retirement (assuming all goes according to plan). But my wife, Allyson, and I have already thought a lot about where we want to live when we retire—or at least when I retire. It’s doubtful we will stop working at the same time, because Allyson is a decade younger than me. But we figure that in five years, she could do her job from anywhere in the U.S. that’s close to an airport, and I could pursue my dream of teaching and writing anywhere that has a community college nearby.

I’m originally from Wisconsin, and Allyson is from Michigan, so the idea of retiring to northwestern Michigan appealed to us. A couple of years ago we decided to check out Petoskey—a picturesque town of 5,720 people built on a hill overlooking Lake Michigan. We stayed in a rambling bed and breakfast with views of the lake—and the regional health care complex—and explored the town and surrounding area. We rode bikes, stopped at a microbrewery along the bike trail and visited a couple of the town’s independent bookstores, which featured shelves full of Hemingway novels and biographies (his family summered in the area when he was a kid). When we imagined what our lives would look like there, we got good vibes.

Then we ran into someone my wife had grown up with who now lives in Petoskey. She invited us to her house—a Victorian gem at the top of the hill. She pointed out that the big home with a carriage house across the street was selling for less than $300,000. But she cautioned us that the town had a far different vibe when the summer crowds left and the snow came. When we got home to Washington, D.C., we talked about what it would be like to move to a place where we didn’t have family or a network of friends. We wondered if our love of cross-country skiing would be enough to get us through cold, gray winters that stretch into April—and we put the brakes on.

Food for thought. At Kiplinger’s, we’re aware that only a small minority of retirees actually move to another city. Estimates vary, but according to the latest Census data, it’s less than 5%. However, research shows that the wealthier you are, the more likely you are to move (or buy a second home). Sandy Block, who edited the cover story, says she’s heard from a lot of near-retirees who live on the East Coast who say that with the jump in home prices, they may sell and move to a less expensive city. “You can buy a lot of house in Johnson City, Tenn.,” she adds. In our own reader poll, more than half of you said you plan to move (or already have) and that the main draws are lower taxes and affordable living costs.

Each of the places we spotlight in the cover story (including Johnson City) has attributes that are high on retirees’ wish lists: high-quality health care, low (or at least moderate) taxes, affordable homes and a thriving arts scene, as well as outdoor recreational areas. All are small or medium-size cities because most retirees don’t want to deal with big-city traffic, congestion and living costs. And our choices are sprinkled across the U.S. because Sunbelt living isn’t for everyone.

The cities on our list are meant as suggestions to serve as food for thought as you contemplate what your life will look like in the decade or two after you retire. We include the cost of renting as well as buying a home, because it’s a good idea to spend a couple of months in a place before you make a permanent move.

As for Allyson and me, our current plan is to build an addition to our home, settle in for at least another 10 years, and spend as much time with family and friends as we can.

Most Popular

Child Tax Credit 2021: Who Gets $3,600? Will I Get Monthly Payments? And Other FAQs
Coronavirus and Your Money

Child Tax Credit 2021: Who Gets $3,600? Will I Get Monthly Payments? And Other FAQs

People have lots of questions about the new $3,000 or $3,600 child tax credit and the advance payments that the IRS will send to most families in 2021…
May 4, 2021
Are You Still Chasing the Almighty Dollar, Even Though You Have Plenty to Retire?
retirement

Are You Still Chasing the Almighty Dollar, Even Though You Have Plenty to Retire?

In our experience, many have saved enough money to retire comfortably. Yet too many worry about their money running out and want more. Maybe it’s tim…
May 6, 2021
9 Tax Deadlines for May 17 (It's Not Just the Due Date for Your Tax Return)
tax deadline

9 Tax Deadlines for May 17 (It's Not Just the Due Date for Your Tax Return)

Between due dates for extension requests, IRA or HSA contributions, and other deadlines, there's more to do by May 17 than just filing your federal in…
May 4, 2021

Recommended

Estate-Planning Your Stuff with T. Eric Reich
Empty Nesters

Estate-Planning Your Stuff with T. Eric Reich

What to do with the house, the vacation house and the china? We talk with a financial adviser who's got some wise counsel. Also, who makes up the so-c…
May 2, 2021
What You Need to Know about College 529 Savings Plans
529 Plans

What You Need to Know about College 529 Savings Plans

Do you know how much you’re able to contribute or what the funds could be used to pay for? How about how contributing affects your taxes? Check out th…
April 14, 2021
37 Ways to Earn Extra Cash in 2021
business

37 Ways to Earn Extra Cash in 2021

We flag a wide variety of cool side hustles to earn bonus bucks to cover expenses expected and unexpected as we begin to emerge from the pandemic lock…
April 8, 2021
6 Money-Smart Ways to Spend Your Third Stimulus Check
Coronavirus and Your Money

6 Money-Smart Ways to Spend Your Third Stimulus Check

If you don't have to use your third stimulus check for basic necessities, consider putting the money to work for you. You'll thank yourself later.
March 20, 2021