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Think Twice Before Moving in Retirement

deciding where to live in retirement

Many of us dream of moving to a new and exciting location after retirement. Whether the desire to move comes from wanting to be closer to family, the hope for a slower or faster pace of life, or to enjoy nicer weather, there are a number of reasons why people pull up stakes to explore somewhere new. Sometimes, though, the grass is not always greener on the other side. Make sure to do your homework and think twice before moving in retirement.

A few weeks ago, I ran into one of Jim’s former work colleagues who retired a couple of years ago. We knew she and her husband had moved to Fort Collins, CO, so I was a bit surprised to see her. After some small talk, she told me the whole story about wanting to leave small town life for a bigger city with the added benefit of being closer to their children.

In reality, she and her husband hated the city. There was too much traffic. They didn’t know anyone, and their children were so busy that visits had to be scheduled several weeks in advance. They ended up moving back to our hometown. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but they sold their house before moving and bought another house in the new city, which they also had to sell. After two home sales in two years, they are currently renting and hoping to buy another house a few years down the road. It makes me wonder if all this could have been prevented.

Moving Is Expensive

Hopefully, when nearing retirement, your home is paid off or at least has a decent amount of equity. Making a profit on the sale of your home home and downsizing can be a great way to increase a retirement nest egg, but make sure moving is the best idea. Selling a house after less than two years means more in taxes and costs thousands in realtor commissions and closing costs. Be very sure that you love your new location before buying or selling any real estate.

Vacation is Not Real Life

One thing our friend said that really resonated with me was how much they enjoyed visiting Fort Collins before moving there, but it was always during vacations. Don’t all places seem awesome while on vacation?

I’ve been told by at least a dozen tourists over the years how much they would love to live in Telluride. In reality, houses are expensive, job prospects are few, and you have to drive over an hour for most amenities. No one cares about those things on vacation, but it makes real life lots more real.

Likewise, every time we go to San Diego, I think I want to move there. Realistically, the traffic, taxes, and high cost of living would probably make me beg to come back home to rural Colorado. So how do you know when to move or when to stay put?

Give Your New Town a Trial Run

When Jim and I retire, we plan to take year and travel around the county, spending a few months in places that appeal to us. We’ll become locals in a sense and see what life is like when we aren’t staying in hotels where other people take care of us.

I would encourage anyone contemplating a move to try spending at least a month in your new location before making any permanent decisions. Even if rent out your home and become a tenant in your new locale, that’s much better than selling or buying a house too soon.

Are Your an Introvert or Extrovert?

Some people are social butterflies who make new friends easily and have no problem stepping into unfamiliar social situations. Other people make friends slowly and don’t enjoy having to start over in a new place. If you are coming from a small town, the feeling of being the small fish in a big pond could intimidate your efforts to fit in. Retirees moving from a big city to a smaller place might not understand the pace or mentality of small town life.

Living Near Family Can Be Stressful

In our friend’s case, she felt that she saw her family more living further apart because on vacations, together time was planned. Once they lived closer geographically, family visits were always something that got pushed to the back burner because everyone felt they could do it later. Moving closer certainly doesn’t guarantee family harmony.

I’ve also seen retired grandparents leave work and move closer to family only to be saddled with babysitting duties. Most grandparents are eager to help out, but if adult children begin to take their services for granted, it can produce family stress. Everyone wants to be valued and appreciated. Early retirees also want to have time to do their own activities without always being on call.

I have at least a decade before seriously considering whether or not to move in retirement, but I don’t think it’s ever too early to plan ahead. We always intended to test out any potential retirement spots, but now I think we will certainly give each place a good trial run and think about how moving might affect us socially or mentally. We might decide that home sweet home is sweeter than we originally thought.

Do you think you’ll move in retirement? Would you spend more or less time with out of town relatives if they moved closer?


Image: Flickr Creative Commons


About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. My husband and I just went through the same thought process about whether to move two states away, where our son lives, or to stay put. We have decided to stay put and build a new home rather than move. We may regret this someday as our son just announced he and his wife are expecting a baby, but I think that ultimately this is the right decision for us, mainly for the same reasons you mention. The house we are building would cost 50% again as much as what we are paying here. The traffic in the new city is horrendous whether at 11:00 AM or PM. We would have to find new doctors, dentists, plumbers, electricians etc. And based on the part of the city where we would settle, we would still be 40 minutes from our son. He and his wife both work and when they have a new baby, they will be even busier so the likelihood of us seeing them very often diminishes. Hopefully we will think we chose wisely 10 years from now.

  2. We definitely plan to move somewhere less expensive in retirement, but we are not sure where yet. I completely agree, though, about the stress of living near family. We used to live far away from all of our families and after we had our son, we thought it would be good to be closer to family. All it really did was add stress to our lives between the misplaced expectations and proximity to family drama.

  3. We’ve started speaking about this quite a bit, mainly because Nicole wants to move back to San Diego at some point – either in the next few years or in retirement. The cost is the big hangup for me, not to mention the extra people and potentially being away from our kids when they’re grown. That being said, I think there is some sort of balance to be had that can allow you to do both – assuming you manage your money to allow you to do that in some fashion.

  4. Moving has been on my mind as I get close to retirement. I will likely live in an income tax free state before I take my pension and investment income. I plan on doing a lot of traveling before I make up my mind.

    It’s always greener on the other side.

  5. Love your post. Right now I see us staying at ‘base camp’ ( which would be paid off, etc ) and do more traveling when we retire. Watching an older relative stay in their own home for too long we are are talking about planning on moving into independent/ assisted living place when we can’t live by ourselves. The only question I have is would that be closer to our kids or would we arrange for someone else to come visit us to make sure that the place is taking good care of us.

  6. Now that I’m retired, I wouldn’t mind moving somewhere with a warmer climate and lower cost of living, but we’ve decided to stay put in our home for a couple of reasons, including staying close to family and friends. I think the suggestion of visiting somewhere for at least a month before making a move is a good one, as vacations and full-time living are two totally different things. If at some point we decide to move out of the area, we’d give it a trial run first.

  7. I still don’t have actual retirement plans, which is no good considering that I’m aiming to be retired in five years (whether or not that goal is realistic is……….debatable), but I would like to move simply because my city has a ridiculously high cost of living. I plan to live off my dividend income and don’t think I’ll be retiring anytime ever if I stay.

    ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  8. Since we are location independent, we have talked about this before. Personally, I like having a “home base.” I’m sure we’ll slow travel and live all over the place once our kids are in college, but I’m sure we’ll keep this home too.

  9. Jon @ Money Smart Guides

    I agree 100% about vacation is not real life. I know there are a lot of things I put up with while on vacation – like a further drive to get groceries – than I would in everyday life. I really like the idea of doing a trial run first.

    In fact, I’ve seen this play out with my sister. Her husband works for the government and his job was relocated to Florida. They rented first to see the area and figure out where they would want to live. Fast forward to today, and they just moved up to Maryland because he was relocated again. They are once again renting to figure out where to ideally stay.

  10. I’m so far from retirement this isn’t even on my radar. My parents, on the other hand, are within 10 years of retirement. I don’t anticipate them moving to a new home, let alone a new city, and I think they are smart for that. I honestly would prefer to stay where I am long-term, in part because of the things you shared. I’m an introvert and don’t make friends as easily or quickly as others. My wife is an extrovert, though, so that balances things out. I also think you are spot on that some places are fun to vacation to, but not to live in. For example I don’t mind going to Vegas for a long weekend but I don’t think I would enjoy living/working there like some of my colleagues.

  11. Couldn’t agree more! One bit of advice we’d share is: If you plan to live somewhere in retirement, move there well before you retire. For several reasons: 1. If you decide you don’t actually love it, you still have the means to move somewhere else, 2. You meet people when you are more relateable (a regular working stiff) instead of being perceived as a wealthy person living a life of leisure. And your point about adjusting to the pace of small town life is so true. We moved to a mountain town from one of the biggest cities in the country, and it definitely took us a little time to cut out our city habits — aggressive driving being chief among them. 😉 If we’d rolled into town as early retirees with bad habits, people might not have warmed up to us. But because they got to know us when we’re still chasing the paycheck like everyone else, we’re a lot more relatable!

  12. We often thought about moving on retirement. We did not. We babysited ful-time basis for our girl (three kids) and often for one son (2kids) My wife enjoyed more than me. When young, our parents lived in another city and we missed them.

  13. While I don’t think everyone would have similar experiences with moving to a new town, doing a “trial run” in the new town sounds like a very good idea!! See if you like the neighborhood and environment first, without the commitment of a mortgage. Rent a hotel for a week or two near where you’re considering moving and scope it out!

  14. This is a really helpful post! there are so many things to be considered before moving in retirement… a person should definitely think good before take such a step. Thank you for sharing this! Now I have a much clearer view on the matter.

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