FREE NEWSLETTER

On the Move

Richard Quinn

AS WE GROW OLDER, maintaining the family home can become a burden. Eight years after I retired, my wife and I moved to a 2,000-square-foot condo. It’s about the same size as our old house. But it has no stairs, no basement—and no attic full of stuff. There’s also no exterior maintenance or landscaping work required of us.

I’ve been asking near-retirees how both downsizing and relocating figure into their retirement plans. Although there’s much talk about it, a majority of retirees don’t move during retirement.

Several people I questioned had a unique way of assessing where to live. Visit local stores, they said, especially Walmart and Home Depot. They claimed it could tell you a lot about the community.

When I asked about downsizing and kids, l learned that my views are not typical. I say the kids leave the house when they marry. Or, if circumstances allow, they move out after they graduate college or have a fulltime job.

The alternate view I heard was that the kids are never moving back home once they’re off to college, so downsizing is immediate. A few people took the concept even further, saying there’s no more room at the inn right after high school graduation.

Family and friends are important considerations. One woman said they had always planned to retire to the South. And they did—when there were no grandkids. Once the grandchildren arrived, they reversed course and headed back north.

I recently played golf with an 85-year-old who has been married 63 years. For the past 13 years, he and his wife have lived in a 55-plus condo community similar to mine. He enjoyed playing pool and cards with friends there. Then his wife decided she wanted to move 50 miles closer to the children. We live in an apartment, he said with a tinge of regret, and hardly ever see the kids.

Here’s an interesting—and thoughtful—perspective. One person said he would never move far from his children. Why? As we age, we may need help, most likely from our children. It would be stressful for them if they were hundreds—or thousands—of miles away.

Among those who move, relocating boils down to a few main objectives:

Better weather. I understand seeking better weather, especially to avoid northern winters. Better weather has its tradeoffs, however. Warmer winters often mean blistering hot and humid summers. Still, I have yet to find anyone who feels sizzling Florida summers outweigh the benefits of warmer winters with no snow.

Lower costs. If lower spending is a necessity, relocation is a viable option, especially if you’re moving from the Northeast, or a coastal state, to the South.

There are tradeoffs for that lower cost of living, however. Areas with lower costs typically have lower incomes, too. There can be fewer public services and less spent on education, although the latter may not be too significant for a retiree.

One fellow I asked about relocating said, “Save enough to live where you want. But there’s a big difference between Paris, France, and Paris, Texas.”

For those serious about retirement planning, one goal should be to avoid relocating out of financial necessity. Moving under financial stress may mean you can’t return to your old home base if things don’t work out as planned.

Lower taxes. Retirees heading to Florida delight in not having to pay state income taxes. But that doesn’t mean there are no taxes or fees. There are only nine states without an income tax and, of these, only Florida is a major draw for retirees. At the other end of the spectrum, 12 states with a state income tax also tax Social Security benefits.

Our Weekly Newsletter

If taxes are a reason for relocating, all taxes should be considered. This includes taxes on income, state and local sales taxes, property, estate and inheritance taxes—even the tax on gasoline. A state needs revenue, and it’ll get it somewhere.

A WalletHub tax survey says 38% of people would move to a different country for a tax-free future. That seems a bit drastic to me.

Safety. For some, the crime rate is a consideration. Looking at the data, I was fooled. Some states popularly associated with crime actually have low rates. For example, New Jersey is lower in crime than 44 other states, including the relocation destinations of South Carolina and Florida.

A woman told me, “We moved south to Myrtle Beach. Too much crime. We moved back north, close to our daughter and granddaughters. It was an expensive lesson.”

My wife and I are never moving far from our children and grandchildren. We would save $10,000 a year in property taxes alone if we moved fulltime to our vacation home on Cape Cod. But that was never an option. It’s five-and-a-half hours and 300 miles away from the people most important to us.

Money may be the primary consideration in retirement planning. But where you choose to live, and why, is close behind. If you get it wrong, the consequences may be as dire as underfunding your retirement.

Richard Quinn blogs at QuinnsCommentary.net. Before retiring in 2010, Dick was a compensation and benefits executive. Follow him on Twitter @QuinnsComments and check out his earlier articles.

Do you enjoy HumbleDollar? Please support our work with a donation. Want to receive daily email alerts about new articles? Click here. How about getting our weekly newsletter? Sign up now.

Browse Articles

Subscribe
Notify of
13 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
DrLefty
DrLefty
10 days ago

My in-laws are in their early 80s, and she has advanced dementia. They live 400 miles south of us and my husband’s sister. They have no support system where they live now, but he’s comfortable in the home he bought in 1970. They live near the beach and have great weather. He doesn’t want to move, and it will be a lot of work for someone when they finally do (50 years worth of stuff)—but it’s rapidly becoming a crisis.

We’re begging them to move closer to us, either to our town or my sister-in-law’s town about 20 miles from us. It is so stressful thinking about getting on a plane or driving 400 miles if there’s an emergency. If something happened to him, she’d be helpless. He’s resisted moving near us because “I don’t want us to be a burden.” But it’s more of a burden worrying about them where they are.

R Quinn
R Quinn
8 days ago
Reply to  DrLefty

Well said.

Jeff Bond
Jeff Bond
10 days ago

Both of my kids are in the military. One year ago, one was returning to the continental US from duty in Hawaii while the other was deploying to England after tours in Alaska and Ohio. Neither of my wife’s children live nearby, either, and have not necessarily found their “permanent locations”. I/we cannot follow any of them around the country (or globe). We maintain our permanency, visit them when we can, and hope for visits from them when they can.

Last edited 10 days ago by Jeff Bond
corrupt
corrupt
13 days ago

The difference between Montclair and Newark IRT crime rates is extreme, pretty much as can be found in any state. That said, there are a LOT of places in NJ that are dangerous, and downright hazardous to your health.

R Quinn
R Quinn
13 days ago
Reply to  corrupt

I’m sure that’s true in any state. They all have bad spots.

NY Moneyhawk
NY Moneyhawk
14 days ago

Great article.

My kids are still high school and college age but I imagine having the home available to them in early adulthood would be a plus, until they are more financially secure. Eg if they want to save for a down payment, or are in between jobs.

Autumn S
Autumn S
14 days ago

Good article. Re better weather, I suggest thinking about wildfire safety and drought. Also, one may find northern winters are milder they used to be decades ago.

George Counihan
George Counihan
14 days ago

RE the kids moving back home … When ours graduated from college (without student loans) I encouraged them to move back home for a year or two and hoard as much $ as they could for their down payments on a house. They grumbled a bit as I assured them they would never have the opportunity to save this much cash this quickly again in their lives. Fast forward a bit and now they both will tell anybody who will listen it was a great idea.

Boss Hogg
Boss Hogg
14 days ago

Before moving to spend more time with relatives, make sure the relatives want to spend more time with you.

R Quinn
R Quinn
14 days ago
Reply to  Boss Hogg

Ha! Good point.

Jerry Pinkard
Jerry Pinkard
14 days ago

Good article and good advice. We considered retiring either to the Carolina mountains or coast and probably would have had the great recession not occurred. We had a building lot in Mt Pleasant, SC and already had house plans, I was reluctant to build a new home when it might drop in value 20 or 30% (and many did!). Instead, we did a major remodel to our ranch style home (no steps) with 2 acres of wooded land and lots of privacy. We are happy we chose that option. Our children will have to declutter and get rid of our junk when we checkout (ha!).

I was surprised at the comment about high crime rates in SC. I am sure that is true in some areas but where you live makes a big difference in the crime rate. I live in the Charlotte, NC metro area. Our town has a low crime rate but there are areas in the metro that would rival many big cities.

IAD
IAD
14 days ago

Many stories have been told of retirees basing their decision on where to live on the location of their kids\grandkids, only to have them move for a new\better job somewhere else. I’ve also heard stories of kids not taking a better job because it required a move which would devastate the grandparents. Living somewhere because of another person should ensure everyone understands its not a “binding” decision and all have to live their own lives.

For me, the “Everyone Loves Raymond” scenario is a bit too much!

Chazooo
Chazooo
10 days ago
Reply to  IAD

Yes, IAD, it can get annoying when relatives happen to drop in at meal time with a certain amount of regularity. After a while you figure out painless methods of discouragement, unlike Raymond.

Free Newsletter

SHARE