3 Things To Think About Before You Retire To The Beach

“I can’t wait to retire and live on the beach!”

In the last thirty years of being a practicing financial planner, I’ve heard some version of this sentiment more times than I can count. It may sound like a throwaway statement or a pie-in-the-sky type dream, but the fact of the matter is that deciding where to live in retirement is one of THE major choices you’ll need to make.

Consider it. Where you live determines the types of leisure activities available to you, the general cost of living, the kind of transportation that you need, even the accessibility of medical care.

I love it when people dream big about their retirements, and living in a beautiful destination is definitely dreaming big. BUT—there’s always a but with us planners,right?—be careful. Dreams have a tendency to take on a life of their own. Once the romanticized vision is planted, it’s easy to throw caution to the wind and act before you’ve fully examined whether you truly want it. Suddenly, your retirement dream can easily become a financial nightmare.

If you’ve ever listened to the Retirement Answer Man podcast, you’ll know that I’m a big proponent of organizing your thinking before making a decision, and deciding where to live in retirement is no exception. Here are three things I want you to think about before hiring a moving truck and heading for Florida.


Your ideal living environment

This one can be a little tricky at first. Up until now, you’ve probably chosen your location based on external factors like the commute to your office building or the quality of schools for your children. The good news? In retirement, you have so much more freedom than that!

So now is the time to really think through what kind of location will suit you best, whether that’s a mountain cabin, a beachside condo, or a large family home near all the grandkids. You do you. Make a list of the activities you want to pursue, the climate you’d love to experience, and the community services that matter to you. Once you’ve sketched out this ideal living profile, you can start to explore various destinations that fit the bill.

Consider ways to experiment & explore

I like to consider this the “try before you buy” methodology. Take a long vacation in your destination of choice. Try renting a home through Airbnb or VRBO. It may cost a little more on the front end, but it could save you a bundle if you discover that you’re happier than you thought in your current home. In fact, if you discover your first relocation choice wasn’t for you, you can even repeat the process while maintaining your home base.

If several long trips are not in your budget, the Internet can be your best friend. In our 2022 Retirement Plan Live case study followed a couple who had just relocated from LA to the Pacific Northwest, after visiting their future hometown in person only once! Our subject Joelle researched cultural events, restaurants, real estate, and weather to help her learn about the community.

Finally, consider renting a home first before purchasing in a new area. Again, it may cost you a little bit more in the short term, but if you discover that it actually matters a lot more for you to be near the new grandbaby across the state, a lease is much easier to shed than a mortgage. I’m working with a client now who plans on moving cross country when he retires. Our plan is for him to keep his paid-for house and rent a home in his new location for a year or two. This will allow him to test drive his dream without burning bridges back to his current life. It’s a small price to pay to discover if the new community is right for him.

Get beyond the tourist mindset

Spending a week in a beautiful place focused on fun and relaxation is wonderful, but it isn’t real life. As a tourist, you’ll likely visit, well, the tourist spots. You’ll do all the fun stuff. Don’t let your tourist fantasy drive your retirement plans! If you find a place you love, set some concrete steps to get beyond the tourist mindset.

Visit the area during the off season. In fact, visit the area in all four seasons if you can swing it! It may be vibrant during tourist season but a literal ghost town the rest of the year. Find out what it’s like when the sun and fun have died down. One of my teammates often jokes about buying a place in Cape Cod in her old age… don’t do that without living through a Massachusetts winter first!

It can be fun to fantasize about houses in Cape Cod or a cozy cabin retreat. If you’re serious about relocating somewhere new for retirement, make sure you move beyond the dream. Create an action plan. Turn your dream into an adventure you organize well in advance, so that it can become a reality you enjoy when you’re rocking retirement.

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