Get a Quote

Discover great savings and benefits with auto insurance from The Hartford.

Retire in Place or Relocate | Which is Right for You?

Emily Guy Birken

Have you decided to retire, but not yet figured out if you will be staying in place or making a move? While you may be perfectly happy staying where you are, there are a number of reasons why you might choose to move after hanging up your hat. Here are some things to consider as you figure out the ideal setting for your next chapter:

Deciding Where to Move

There are a number of reasons why you might want a change of scene in retirement:

  • Looking for a lower cost-of-living area.
  • Desire to live in an area with plenty of entertainment, fun, or activities.
  • Relocating closer to family or friends.
  • Access to excellent medical or other professional care.
  • Seeking better weather.

In an ideal world, you’d be able to find a place that meets all of these concerns. However, it’s likely that you will have to weigh your options; which are most important to you as you determine where to live?

Cost of Moving vs. Cost of Staying Put

Housing costs tend to be the largest line item in a budget. Moving can dramatically affect your retirement bottom line—for good or for ill. It’s important to remember that both relocating and retiring in place have associated costs:

Relocation Math

Moving to a lower-cost of living area can make a big difference in your finances, but even if you are moving someplace less expensive, your moving costs could cancel out some of your savings.

According to My Moving Reviews, the average cost of an interstate move could be as high as $7,672 as of 2018. This cost could be potentially higher depending on your specific circumstances, such as:

  • Amount of stuff you are moving.
  • Moving services you opt for.
  • Distance between your old home and your new one.

Incidental moving expenses, such as having to restock your pantry or pay for short-term lodging, can increase this expense. Following best practices for a frugal move can help keep your costs lower, but you will need to account for your moving costs in your retirement budget.

The Financial Realities of Retiring in Place

Of course, staying in your current place is not necessarily the cheaper option. If you are still living in a family home as an empty-nester, you could be paying to heat, clean, and maintain more house than you need. Depending on where you live, outsourcing maintenance tasks may also be necessary to ensure snow removal, yard work, and other vital tasks are taken care of as you age.

You also may need to spend money to make accommodations for reduced mobility as the years pass. While this cost will depend entirely on your specific circumstances, the site HomeAdvisor calculates that the average cost to remodel a home for disability accommodation can range from nearly $5,000 to $20,000.

Should You Rent or Buy?

If you are moving to reduce your cost of living, the obvious next question is whether you should rent or buy. The general rule of thumb is that you should plan on buying if you expect to stay in the same place for at least five years. It will take about five years to recoup the higher initial costs of homeownership, including the down payment, closing costs, realtor fees, and the like.

It’s also a good idea to consider the cost of maintenance, especially if you are not inclined to DIY. According to a recent Bankrate survey, the average homeowner spends $2,000 annually on recurring maintenance services.

Don’t Forget to Account for Maintenance Expenses

That cost could be even higher depending on where you live and what kinds of weather conditions you experience regularly. The Bankrate survey found that homeowners spend, on average, the following on services:

  • $144 per month for landscaping
  • $123 per month for pool maintenance
  • $84 per month for snow removal
  • $67 per month for septic service

Depending on how many of these types of incidental maintenance expenses you will need to cover, even a paid-for home could have some pretty expensive ongoing costs.

While your rent payment will certainly cover maintenance expenses, you will not have to budget for that kind irregular and unknown expense. Bonus of renting: save yourself the headache of dealing with the wonky thermostat or stopped-up sink.

Another consideration when deciding between renting and owning is the cost of insuring your home. Both homeowners insurance and renters insurance are important for protecting yourself from loss. Make sure you factor in the cost of this important protection when choosing where you want to live in retirement.

Family Considerations for Moving

Will moving bring you geographically closer or farther away from your loved ones? Moving can affect your relationships and family dynamics, and it’s best to be prepared for these potential changes.

Moving Closer to Grandchildren

Grandparenting can be one of life’s greatest joys. Grandchildren are one of the biggest reasons why you might choose to make a move in retirement. Being a long-distance grandparent is tough, and it’s perfectly natural to dream of the kind of close-knit relationship you can foster when you see your grandkids on a more regular basis.

But moving closer to family without talking to your adult children about your day-to-day expectations for your retirement can potentially be a recipe for hurt feelings. For instance, if your adult kids are imagining sharing twice-a-month dinners with the whole family, and you are busy planning a twice-a-week grandparent date with the little ones, the mismatched expectations could cause some serious strife.

Managing Expectations When Moving Closer to Family

You need to get ahead of the potential emotional landmines by asking your adult kids to describe the ideal relationship they envision having with you once you move. This should reveal if their expectations are different from yours.

Managing expectations is also important if your adult children are expecting you to be the de facto childcare providers once you move, and you’re expecting to enjoy a footloose retirement. This can be an incredibly delicate situation, since saying no to requests for childcare help can sometimes feel as if you’re saying you don’t love your grandchildren enough.

To avoid any potential hurt feelings, set up firm boundaries with your adult children before you move. If you know that being expected to handle pre-school pickup every day and Saturday night babysitting every week is more than you want to handle, then you owe it to your family to make that clear. Ask your adult children what they are hoping you will help with, and let them know what your comfort level is for babysitting.

Ultimately, the secret to a successful move closer to family is communication. Be open and honest about your expectations, and be ready to listen to theirs. If they don’t match, you’ll be able to talk to each about what will work for all of you

When Moving Takes You Farther From Family

On the other side of the family question is whether your retirement move will make it more difficult to see your loved ones. If you have always lived in the same town or area as your family, you might not realize how much contact you take for granted.

For instance, you might assume your adult children and grandchildren will visit all the time in your new home on the beach—after all, you’ll be a vacation destination as well as everyone’s favorite Nana. But you can’t forget how much more expensive and logistically difficult it can be for your children and grandchildren to travel. And if you do not budget for your own trips back to see family, you may end up feeling lonely, even though you have relocated to paradise

Should You Move South?

If you spent your working years in the snowbelt, retiring to a southern state is a popular option. It’s obvious why you might want to retire to a place with warmer weather. Don’t forget that the popularity of southern retirement means you are also likely to find friends, activities, and opportunities that will make your new home a good fit.

If you have the financial ability to set up two residences, becoming a snow bird can also be a great way to have the best of both worlds: stay close to lifelong friends and family up north in the summer months, and enjoy the better weather and retirement lifestyle down south during the winter months.

Building a Network in Your New Home

There is an excellent reason why psychologists rank moving as one of the most stressful life events you can experience, after the death of a spouse and divorce. In addition to dealing with the logistical headaches of moving, you may have to start over with your social and community support network.

Before you officially move, you need to do some research into your new home. Does your future community include  like-minded friends and resources to help you create a full and vibrant life in retirement? If you do not have a plan already in place for meeting others, it will be difficult to adjust to both moving and retiring at the same time. Consider the following:

But your network needs to be more than just finding friends and community that you enjoy. You will also need to find and get established with new healthcare providers. It’s especially important to find doctors who accept Medicare if you are relying on it for your healthcare needs.

All of this networking will be much easier if you lay the groundwork before you actually call the moving van.

Building Your Best Life

Whether you decide to relocate or stay where you are, the key to having a fulfilling retirement is planning ahead. While you have probably planned for retirement costs, make sure you’re also planning for:

  • relocation costs
  • family time
  • network-building
  • activities you enjoy

Thinking through all of these issues can help you to transition seamlessly from working to retired and from your old home to your new one.

Are you planning to move in retirement? If not, what are your main reasons for staying put?

Tell us about your plans in the comments below!

3 Responses to "Retire in Place or Relocate | Which is Right for You?"

  • Extra Mile Staff | July 8, 2019 at 7:26 pm

    Hi Sheila. Thanks for reaching out. Have you spoken with your son and daughter about the options available to you? Have any other Extra Mile readers had to make a similar decision - stay or go? What steps did you take to figure it out?

  • Sheila | July 6, 2019 at 5:22 pm

    I live in Texas and I'm 63, single, with 2 adult children. My daughter still lives in California where I relocated from. My son is here with me in Texas. He's married now with 2 children and is talking about relocating to another state for better jobs in his field. If he leaves, I will be all alone. I don't know if I should stay, (I'm not that crazy about Texas) move with him or go back home to Cali where my single daughter lives. I'm on disability so the move will be very expensive no matter where I go. Any advice will be welcomed.

  • Debra Milotte Johnson | June 12, 2019 at 10:50 pm

    My husband is working for another 18 months and I am collecting my social security. We rent a home. When he retires the income will decrease by >50%. I'm stressed out thinking about where we will live. We CANNOT afford California anymore the costs are way over the top for living expenses, auto registrations, taxes, gasoline/diesel, etc. Two of our 3 of our 4 children live in California along with 8 grandchildren. We were thinking of Reno and living as full-timers, or camphosts or work campers in our 35' 5th Wheel Trailer. It has all the comforts of home.

  • Should You Rent After You Sell Your Home? | May 15, 2019 at 9:08 pm

    […] can be important if you move to be near your grandchildren or other family. If they later relocate (for example, if a job change takes them to another area of the country), […]

Leave a Reply

Comments are subject to moderation and removal without cause or justification and may take up to 24 hours to be seen in comments. At Extra Mile we do not have access to personal policy information, please do not include personal identification information. If you have questions or concerns regarding your policy, please log into your account at our customer service center or you can speak directly to a Customer Service Representative.