6 Primary RetirePLACEment™ Criteria to Help Choose Where to Retire:
Retirement is that stage of life where you have unlimited discretionary time to do whatever you choose… as long as you have the resources and ability. The first thought that comes to your mind about being retired should not be what you no longer do. Instead, think of retirement as an opportunity to restructure your life to pursue interests and grow in ways you simply did not have time for or just set aside—perhaps for 40 years or longer. Think of retirement as the time of your life when you can be or work on becoming the person you truly want to be…and live it.
Before considering where to retire, it’s important to first consider what you want retirement to look like.
Before considering where to retire, it’s important to first consider what you want retirement to look like and how you’ll be spending your time, which requires that you reflect on who you are and which interests you want to pursue. Your Personhood combines you Identity—who you are—with your interests and your passions that you live out. Recognize who you are and with whom you want to make your life as meaningful as possible. Your retirement lifestyle and where you choose to live will naturally flow from this.
The objective for this resource is to provide you with a framework to assess the RetirePLACEment™ Criteria from the perspective of Delaware as a potential retirement location. It is not intended to advise you how favorably you should evaluate Delaware or to promote it as a retirement location. How important you rate each of the Criteria to be and how you evaluate the various retirement destination compare on the Criteria is highly subject. Please visit DelwareRetiree.com/Relocating-to-DE to find additional information on Living in DE.
The process of determining where you may want to retire can be complicated. You might have identified several potential retirement locations, including remaining in your current residence or general locale. There may be different things that appeal to you about one area or another and you just don’t know how to figure out what should be more important and how to balance the relative advantages and disadvantages of the various options.
When you’re ready to work through the process deciding where to retire, you’ll want to consider the 6 Primary RetirePLACEment™ Criteria:
- Connection to Meaningful People
- Quality of Life
- Cost of Living
- Proximity to Secondary Resources
The order provided is generally the priority list in descending order of importance for most people. Some criteria will be essential for your retirement destination and others perhaps irrelevant, depending on your specific circumstances and preferences.
Connection to Meaningful People
Ultimately, who you share your life with is the most important consideration. This could mean making no changes in your residence, downsizing and staying in the area, or moving to a neighboring area, state or region that is “not too far away.” Typically, family is at the top of the list of meaningful people. If your parents are alive, you might want to have a meaningful life with them, and if need assistance you may have sense of concern and obligation. This can limit you from feeling free to move “out of the area.” On a more positive note, being near the children—and especially the grandchildren—is usually more desirable for retirees. However, it could be tricky to decide which child or children to be closer to and how the other Primary RetirePLACEment™ Criteria tie in when there are multiple children living in different parts of the country.
Ultimately, who you share your life with is the most important consideration.
Delaware is highly popular retirement destination for folks living in the mid-Atlantic region—Virginia, Maryland, DC, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. It is not so far as Florida and the Carolinas are, which makes visits “back home” easy, or at least “not too bad.” This allows retirees the opportunity to stay in contact with family and friends due to a relative proximity and not feel they have “lost touch.”
Mike and Carol met in college in Pennsylvania and lived in the Philadelphia area for the last 43 years. They wanted to move out of the area for several reasons, but they wanted to remain near their two children and their five grandchildren. They had friends who moved south but were disappointed that they rarely saw their family they moved away from. There were things Mike and Carol liked more about other destinations than Delaware that they could “give up” but being a short drive from their loved ones was more important.
Quality of Life
This is where the concept of Personhood–who you are and what you enjoy—really comes into play. There are as many ways to define Qualify of Life as there are people. The multiple aspects of culture, history, outdoors, sports and entertainment, restaurants, religious considerations and the many things you can do make the potential list of interests endless.
It is important to be discerning and realistic about which Quality of Life options really matter to you.
Quality of Life is highly subjective and countless tradeoffs exist between the opportunities different retirement locations offer. It is important to be discerning and realistic about which Quality of Life options really matter to you. Consider which activities and experiences you will actually engage in and how often, and how enjoyable and meaningful these options will be. At the same time, be sure you are aware of what you may be giving up when selecting a particular destination. Be careful not to romanticize Quality of Life measures that are only somewhat meaningful. Instead, focus on those that are truly important to you and you expect will become an indispensable component of your retirement lifestyle.
Delaware offers a wide range of natural resources and culture to appeal to many people. In coastal Delaware, the beaches and bay provide wonderful opportunities to enjoy the sand and shore, go motor or sail boating or kayaking, and fish. Cape Henlopen offers nature trails and the opportunity to hike and bike, and there are numerous options in the area for golfing. The culinary options are diverse with many highly-rated restaurants to choose from, while the arts are prominent as well—offering musical concerts, films , the theater and fine art exhibitions.
Cost of Living
John and Marie lived in the Baltimore area for the past almost 25 years and enjoyed vacationing at the beaches in Delaware. They are active and enjoy outdoor activities—boating and fishing, pickleball, the vibrant restaurant and arts scene, and walking along the beach is one of their favorite things to do. They have no children and “no ties” to where they were currently living, so they felt they could live “anywhere in the country.” Their familiarity with Delaware and because it met many of their other criteria made it an easy choice for them when they found a 55+ community that matched their active lifestyle.
Of all the RetirePLACEment™ Criteria this one will have the greatest variation in priority among retirees. The reason for this is simply the more income and assets you have, the less relevant Cost of Living is in your decision. The biggest savings in cost of living between states include housing, property taxes, state income tax and sales tax, and insurance costs (which could also vary significantly within states that have great disparities in the risk of flooding due to ocean coasts and other bodies of water within their borders).
Cost of Living is of greatest concern for those who live in a state with high taxes and are considering moving to a less expensive area. If you “can afford” to live where you are and you are enjoying it, there may be “no reason” to move. At the other extreme, you just might not be able to make ends meet living where you are, on a fixed income. Even if you could afford to live where you currently are, go through the process of assessing how much more “Quality of Life” you could purchase (such as entertainment, travel, and other discretionary items) by moving to an area with a lower Cost of Living.
Of all the RetirePLACEment™ Criteria this one will have the greatest variation in priority among retirees.
Pat is single and a lifelong resident of New Jersey. She worked for the State and was considering options for retirement where she could escape the high property taxes. Delaware’s low property taxes and no state sales tax saved her enough money to cover all her travel expenses. She was thrilled she no longer has to pay to go on to the beach and was also pleasantly surprised how much she saved on her car insurance. Her Social Security and pension will now meet all her income needs and she will not have to “touch her investments.”
Weather is important to Quality of Life but is considered its own category because it has the potential of being a “knockout” criterion; many retirement destinations are eliminated outright solely due to weather. Standards such as “I hate snow” or “I can’t take the heat” will eliminate huge geographic areas as viable retirement destinations for many folks.
Within acceptable weather conditions, tradeoffs do occur between locations with different weather characteristics.
Jamie and Chris enjoyed the seasons while living in New York. They liked the weather—not too hot and not too cold (most years)—but they “had enough of all the snow,” although they didn’t mind it “once in a while.” Delaware provides similar weather they have been accustomed to and the coastal effect makes the weather more mild with less snow. When they talk to their friends from New York they are surprised how the slightly milder temperatures make such a difference in the amount of snow they get.
The importance of this criterion is directly related to your health. The more health issues you have (particularly serious ones) the more important healthcare is; the fewer health issues, the less important it is, to the point of healthcare potentially being irrelevant to your retirement location decision if you are in “perfect health.” Health considerations could include environmental concerns (the need for low humidity for arthritis or low pollen for asthma) as well as accessibility to medical professionals and facilities for treatment. Heath conditions could be a reason to stay away from a destination or could be a factor forcing you from your home.
George and Samantha loved their home in Hawaii but the volcanic dust he had been inhaling for years created a serious pulmonary condition that would prove fatal if he were to stay there. Based on his physician’s advice to live near the a coast, they settled on moving to a Delaware shore community where he could receive quality medical care and be just a few hours’ driving distance from world class hospitals—Penn Philadelphia or Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.
Proximity to Secondary Resources
Sometimes it’s not essential to have certain resources “in your backyard;” just having relatively easy accessibility to this tier of less important considerations may be adequate, as long as they’re not “too far away.” This list typically includes activities or facilities that are enjoyable but not essential. In fact, you might even be able to “do without them.” Examples may include natural resources such as the beach or skiing, or metropolitan areas that offer cultural and entertainment opportunities as well as facilities like airports or government services—things that you may enjoy or even require a few times a year, that the travel requirement would not limit you from accessing. Items in this category are related to Quality of Life but they are somewhat geographically distant from your retirement residence.
Howard and Jan have lived in many cities throughout their working career. They liked the many attractive features of Delaware but wanted to have access to what big cities could offer. They didn’t feel a need to live in a city but being able to drive to Philadelpha, Baltimore or DC in a few hours—or even New York City—appealed to them. With relatively little inconvenience they can fly out of major airports, see a Broadway show or a major professional sports event, visit museums and other cultural attractions, and even go skiing.
Researching Destination options
It is always good to gather information but be wary that “Best Places to Retire” lists are unhelpful if their criteria used for ranking does not align with the specific criteria you prioritize. The most effective approach to select a retirement destination—which may include to stay where you are—is to gather broad ideas on potential retirement destinations and how to decide between them, and simply ask others about their experiences. From there, process the data based on your Personhood—who you are and what your interests are. Be thoughtful and careful to avoid having to repeat the process or perhaps even “moving back,” as moving is emotionally draining and expensive. And that is why any move may have to clear the extraordinary hurdle of “dealing with moving” which sadly causes many retirees to just stay where they are and not venture to experience all life can be in retirement.
By Len Hayduchok, The Delaware Retiree Advisor