Smart Moves by Ellen James Martin

Tips for Retirees Mulling a Move

Upon retirement, many Americans move to a distant locale with a warmer climate. But that could prove a lonely mistake if it means they’re far away from friends and family.

“When you retire, you won’t want to be 10 states away from the people you love or the activities you most enjoy,” says Jen Lara, a seasoned life coach in Maryland who counts many retirees among her clientele.

Before they buy a property in a faraway state or country, she urges retirees to carefully think through their priorities for what’s likely to be the final active chapter of their lives.

“Retirement is the time to do new things you’ve always wanted to do,” says Lara, who’s affiliated with the International Coach Federation (

The advantage of working with a trained life coach is that such a person can help you knock down psychological barriers that could needlessly limit your options to shape a rewarding and fulfilling retirement.

“A good life coach can help (people) get beyond these emotional limitations so they can pivot to new ways of living,” Lara says.

Here are a few other pointers for retirees who intend to move:

-- Think about airport access.

Ronald Phipps, a longtime real estate broker in Rhode Island, urges retirees planning a move to factor airport access into their selection of a community. Living within a 50- to 60-mile radius of a major airport typically means cheaper flights and greater ease of travel -- important factors for many retired people.

“Also, your friends and family will probably visit more often if you have good air service,” says Phipps, a former president of the National Association of Realtors (

-- Factor finances into your planning.

Jeffrey Wuorio, a personal finance specialist and author, says many older people underestimate their expected life spans, as well as the financial wherewithal they’ll need to cover their expenses for all the years they’re likely to live.

“Research shows that if you and your spouse have already lived to age 60, at least one of you can expect to live to at least 90. That means you will need substantial savings for a comfortable lifestyle going forward,” says Wuorio, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Retirement Planning.”

To address the financial element of their retirement planning, he suggests that empty nesters consider selling a large family house to reduce their energy costs, as well as their property tax and upkeep burdens. He says many retirees discover that living in a smaller place is surprisingly pleasant.

-- Plan a lengthy stay in any distant location where you might move.

As Wuorio says, people considering moving to a distant area are wise to spend some time there before buying property in the community. That could help you avoid a costly mistake.

“It’s a great idea to take a vacation to any town where you might buy a home. Or consider taking a temporary rental there before buying,” he says.

One helpful way to learn about a new area is to strike up conversations with local residents, asking about opportunities to pursue your personal interests in the community -- such as boating, hiking or volunteering. You may also want to ask about local educational options, including the chance to take classes or attend lectures at a local college or university.

“Planning your personal activities for retirement is just as important as saving enough money to make your lifestyle viable,” Wuorio says.

-- Consider available health care resources.

In terms of quality medical facilities, Wuorio stresses that most retirees make many more medical visits than do younger adults.

“Make sure there are good clinics and hospitals in your area,” he says.

To whom can you turn to help familiarize you with medical facilities in a distant community where you might move? Clearly, friends or family members already living in the new area could help. But Wuorio suggests you might also wish to connect with area residents who happen to be alumni of the same schools or universities you attended.

-- Don’t rule out buying a smaller place in the same area where you now live.

One potential option for retirement-age homebuyers is to downsize within the same metro area where they have established friendships.

With more time on their hands, many retirees find that friendships have a deeper meaning than before, Wuorio says. And many older people who move to a distant locale for retirement find it hard to make new friends.

“Unless you’re a person who has a knack for making new friends quickly, you could be better off moving within the same area where you now live rather than moving far away -- no matter how good the climate in some dream destination,” he says.

(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at