Test-Driving Retirement

The pandemic hasn't pushed up our retirement timeline, but it has presented an opportunity to test out our retirement lifestyle.

Lake in Leelanau County, MI photograph
(Image credit: Richard Hurd via Flickr)

We debated whether we should go ahead with our cover story this month—our annual list of great places to retire—in light of the pandemic. Are new retirees rethinking the list of places they might go? Are retirees even contemplating moving right now? Particularly with a reluctance to fly, at least in the near future, proximity to family and grandkids might be a higher priority. In the end, we decided to go ahead with the article, but with a slightly modified list of criteria. We looked for smaller cities with less density but not isolated—excellent broadband coverage was a must. Good health care was high on the list, as were recreational and fitness opportunities. And as always, we chose places with a moderate cost of living that are also tax-friendly or tax-neutral, per our Retiree Tax Map.

Relocating for retirement. Our roundup of retirement places activates a part of me that looks forward to a simpler, less stressful life, free of commuting and meetings and deadlines. A couple of years ago, to accompany one of our retirement places roundups, I wrote about how my wife, Allyson, and I had been exploring retirement in Michigan. We spent a few days in Petosky, Mich., to see how we’d like living there full-time. The conclusion: maybe not so much. Residents we talked to said the town had a different vibe when the summer crowds left and the long, cold winter descended. And it felt far away from family and friends. That trip inspired us to commit to staying in Washington, D.C., for the time being. We hired an architect to design an addition for our house and started to interview builders. Then last summer, while we were vacationing with family in Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula, we decided to look at homes for sale. We fell in love with a house with a view of Lake Michigan, took our renovation money and made a fat down payment on it.

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Mark Solheim
Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Mark became editor of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine in July 2017. Prior to becoming editor, he was the Money and Living sections editor and, before that, the automotive writer. He has also been editor of Kiplinger.com as well as the magazine's managing editor, assistant managing editor and chief copy editor. Mark has also served as president of the Washington Automotive Press Association. In 1990 he was nominated for a National Magazine Award. Mark earned a B.A. from University of Virginia and an M.A. in Writing from Johns Hopkins University. Mark lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, and they spend as much time as possible in their Glen Arbor, Mich., vacation home.