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How Do You Choose a Location to Retire Early?

By: FeedingOurFire.com

We have been trying to figure out where to retire.  This seems like a simple question at first and for some, it may be an easy answer.  The FoFs have always lived where our jobs have taken us, so the freedom to retire and live (almost) anywhere was more challenging than we expected.  When you have the choice of living anywhere, how do you choose?

What is Important to Us?

We started to discuss the things that are important to us with respect to our retirement location.   Mrs. FoF and I are pretty well aligned in our objectives but we don’t always agree on every detail.   Our first discussions were some basic things that are important to consider.   These were some of the top items we wanted to consider, as we continue to search for locations this list varies.

Location to Family: We don’t have strong roots in any one place – having moved around most of our adult lives.  We do not need to be close to immediate family but do want to have an easy drive to visit for Holidays and events.   Given most our family is Mid West and East Coast, we will probably focus in these areas but still would consider other places like Colorado (where we do have some extended family) if it hit the rest of our criteria.

Cost of Living: This is a big consideration.  The biggest items are Housing Costs, Taxes, and Healthcare costs.

Climate:  A must-have is a warmer climate with shorter winters.  Does not need to be snow free.  We also don’t want it to be too warm in the summer so not too far south.

Outdoor Activities: Access to green space like parks to be able to walk.  A plus would be some water access for kayaking.  We also want to have access to a swimming pool especially if we relocate to a warmer client.

Community: Since we will not be working, we want a location with a sense of community.  Smaller towns with a real downtown or village area where you can walk, not a sprawling suburban area were everything is in a strip mall.  Also, a consideration is a vibrant community with activities like farmers markets and summer concerts.  A growing community attractive to younger people would also be a plus.

Amenities:  Having the basics are important, close to a supermarket and Target.  A plus would be communities with small coffee shops, farm to table style restaurants, and microbrew locations.  Ideally, we’d like some of these amenities to be walking distance or at least easy uber access.

Arts and Entertainment:  Access within a reasonable drive to concerts, museums, plays.  Access to a Maker Space would be a plus.

Size:  Smaller town but close to a larger city with more amenities if needed.

What are some things you would consider?  Add a comment below with your ideas and recommendations!

Potential Locations to Retire

Now that have our list of requirements, we needed to develop our list of places for consideration – and then narrow this down.  Based on previous vacations and family visits, we listed out places we had some notion of being a place we could call home.  In addition, we started looking at some of the “best places” lists to also get some additional ideas.  A few of those links are in our reference material.

Here is our not-so-short list of potential locations we developed.  In general, we’ve identified first the major city, within which, we have a number of options we would consider.  Climate was a must-have for our first pass – no sense picking a place with long winters even if it looked great otherwise.  This eliminated a lot of places that are considered low-cost, including the Dakotas, Iowa, New Hampshire and Vermont.

We spent many winters in Rochester, NY and are pretty much done with snow.  Having spent time in Florida, we did not want to go that far south either but did not totally exclude places based on this.  We also tended to stay away from coastal areas to avoid more expensive locations (and Hurricanes).

Initial Retirement Location Ideas

Early Retirement location options

The Long Shots

In addition to the places listed above, we have also discussed some more exotic locations like Roatan, Honduras; Belize, and Panama City, Panama.  For now, these are in the mix but due to pets and other reasons may not be practical for our situation.

Rating the Potential Places

We created an initial spreadsheet to collect some quantitative data for each location based on online research.  This allows us to rate each area based on the criteria that are important to us.  Once we develop this spreadsheet further we will provide a download on our Tools page.

Initial Quantitative Analysis Spreadsheet

How do you find the right location even when you narrowed down a city or region?  We use Google Maps to narrow down in areas with the right features.  One thing we noticed for us is the density of coffee shops, microbreweries, and green space seems to be a good starting point.  We are also fans of Redfin, which includes the “Walk Score” for housing locations.

The numbers only get us so far and we want to make sure we visit and get some feel for the areas to help better narrow down our choices.   We plan to visit each area and get a more qualitative feel.  Could we see ourselves living here?

Before making a final choice we may choose to spend a long time in a few of the areas, especially for locations that we’ve never visited.  For areas that make our final cut, we are planning to do some short-term rentals before making the final decision.

What places are you considering for your retirement?

References

U.S. News & World Report Top 10 Large Cities (2018)

Forbes: The 10 Best Cities If You Want To Retire Early (2017)

AARP: Want to Retire Early?(2017)

WalletHub: Best & Worst States for Health Care (2018)

MagnifyMoney: Best Places to Retire Early in 2017

BestPlaces: Cost of Living Calculator

City Data Website

Republished with the permission of FeedingOurFire.com.

6 replies on “How Do You Choose a Location to Retire Early?”

Love this list! We’ve definitely approached our list of places to visit and possibly move to the same way. In addition to your criteria, we also added pet-friendly community on our list. It’s nice to have access to dog-friendly parks, trails, and restaurants or have a nearby animal shelter to volunteer with.

For you personally, I would consider adding Asheville, NC to your list. It’s one of my favorite foodie towns, and there’s something happening almost every weekend, from beer and cider fests to the 3 weekly farmer’s markets. And if you’re considering Raleigh/Durham, nearby Chapel Hill might fit the bill better for some of the items on your list. As a college town, it has a ton of activities and coffee shops plus lots of young people, and the botanic gardens are small but well planned and easily accessible.

Thanks for the thoughtful post!

I’m wrestling with the same question. We’ve lived in Raleigh, NC for 24 years. Summers here are dreadful. And I say that as someone who grew up in N. Florida. We had two tropical storms/hurricanes come through this year – Florence and Michael. Impacts in Raleigh were far less than in Eastern, NC, but it’s something we deal with probably every other year.

Raleigh has nice walkable areas around downtown but there’s a steep housing price to pay to live there. Not sure what your housing budget or housing style preference is. If we stay in Raleigh I would like to be somewhere more walkable/bikeable than where we are now, but I’m not willing to pay $500k+ for a fixer upper closer to downtown. Condos in that area start around $350k to $400k. There are also lots of townhouses going in. They start around $500k and go on up from there.

When we FIREd about 32 months ago, we knew we didn’t want to live in the Los Angeles area any longer. My wife had lived there her entire life (45+ years) and I had lived there for 23 years. However, we didn’t know where we wanted to live and still don’t.

We sold our house, put some items in storage, and purchased a new 39 foot class A diesel motorhome with the intend of traveling around the United States to find cities and towns we might want to live in for multiple years.

In the 30+ months we have been RVing, we have driven more than 27,000 miles, visited 20 states, and 98 cities and towns. In that time, we have found two towns that we could both see living in for multiple years. However, we both agree that there is so much of this country that we haven’t yet seen that we don’t want to stop RVing any time soon.

RVing is a great way to experience many different areas of the country without requiring a commitment to any one particular place for an extended period of time (although you can).

I had already figured out what was important to me as well as what my core values were but why was I still unhappy? (in the context of how I was living my life) and did I have the guts A.K.A. “intestinal fortitude” to step out of my comfort zone into the unknown?

Which brings me to the start of our journey and how I ended up here in Cairns…..

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