Retirement Destination Checklist: Find the Best Places to Retire

Find your best places to retire.

Find your best places to retire.

Roughly 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 each day. Where to retire is a big question for this huge cohort of Americans.

To make the decision easier, online real estate database Zillow teamed up with Reuters to develop an interactive tool that allows users to customize a list of perfect retirement destinations.

The tool determines the cities and towns that best match your criteria: including weather, low crime rates, proximity to entertainment, and access to health care.

Assess Your Goals for Retirement Before Searching for the Best Places to Retire

Like all tools, the Find the Best Places to Retire tool can give great results — but only if you have good information to put into it.

Before using the tool, you will want to assess what you want out of retirement.  How do you want to spend these important years of your life?

You should probably ask yourself questions like:

  • Why am I looking to relocate?  What is wrong with your current location?
  • What do I want out of a home?
  • Who do I want to spend time with?  If the answer is near your grandchildren, then you might prioritize locales near where they live.  Is it important to you to live near like minded people or in a more diverse environment?
  • What do I want to be doing?  Some passions like surfing or skiing are location dependent.
  • What legacy do you want to leave?    Will your  location enable you to fulfill what you want to leave behind?
  • Where do you want to live vs where do you want to travel?  Sometimes people confuse a great travel destination with a great place to live.  Assess the differences for your own values and how you expect to spend your time.

Assess Your Finances to Determine the Best Places to Retire

Perhaps the MOST important criteria for determining the best place to retire, is assessing what you can really afford.

Most people are not as prepared for retirement as they would like to be and housing is usually the biggest cost for any household.  If you currently own your home, it may also be your most valuable asset.  So, the decision of where to live is hugely significant for your finances and could make or break your budget.

You might want to consider using a Retirement Calculator to determine what you can afford and try different scenarios.

  • Go through the calculator one time with your current housing costs.
  • Then try it a second time imagining you have relocated to a more affordable home and have released some of your home equity through downsizing.
  • Be sure to also look at the zip code comparison information to compare financial averages

How to Create a Custom Destinations List to Find the Best Places to Retire

Using Zillow’s dropdown menus, users select a state, home-buying budget and preferences in order to create a custom list of the top 10 places to retire.

“Where do you want to be when you retire? Use the first dropdown menu to search the entire nation or a selected number of states,” writes Meredith Miller, Zillow economic research analyst.

Say you’re zooming in on states in the Midwest, including Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.

“Do you like big cities or small towns? The second dropdown menu can be used to limit the search based on city size,” Miller writes.

Let’s assume that’s cities with populations of 25,000 people or more.

“What is your housing budget? Use the home values dropdown to select a range of home values to only see places where the cost of homes meets your budget,” she writes.

In November 2014, the median sales price of a new home sold in the U.S. was $280,900, according to the Census Bureau. In keeping with that price range, allows users to filter home values of $300,000 or less.

The last five dropdown menus weight the importance of different characteristics that could contribute to a decision to move when retiring. These include access to health care, pleasant weather, the percentage of residents older than 65, access to entertainment and low crime rates.

When selecting “very important” for each of these five criteria, a list of 10 cities appears below the map. Among the top five for the sample criteria are Mentor, Ohio; Quincy, Ill.; Garfield Heights, Ohio; Maumee, Ohio; and Fremont, Ohio.

What Else to Consider When Researching the Best Places to Retire

Your research shouldn’t stop with any one best places to retire tool. While they provide a good place to start, financial advisors suggest including other criteria in your search for the perfect retirement destination.

“The best thing to do is identify and examine the relevant factors,” says Jon King, of Austin, Texas-based Pegasus Financial Solutions, LLC. “Different people have different needs and priorities, so they are going to weigh them differently.”

King suggests pre-retirees also consider lifestyle, community and availability of part-time employment when determining where to live in retirement.

It is also very important to probe house values and costs..

Specific House Values & Costs: You may have identified a list of areas that you may be able to afford a home.  However, it is very important to dig deeper and find out what kind of homes are actually available and if they match your goals.

For example, many people want to retire in a home on the water.  You may find a community on the water that has affordable homes, but you will need to find out if the home you desire is also in your price point.

What about the cost of living?  It might not matter if you secure a lower cost home if everything else is more expensive.

Lifestyle: Lifestyle can include cultural events, continuing education opportunities and hobbies, among other preferences. You should use the internet to find out about what is available in your town.  For example:

  • Does it have a craft store or the sports facilities you are interested in?
  • What about restaurants and grocery stores?
  • Theaters?

Community: Community, on the other hand, weighs proximity to family and to like-minded people, in the case of moving to a retirement community, King says.

  • What kind of churches are there?
  • Do people walk their dogs or where do they meet up?
  • What kind of festivals or events happen there?

Work: Additionally, working part-time in retirement is becoming more common for retirees as they find ways to fill gaps in their retirement income.

According to a 2014 T. Rowe Price survey, 21% of recent retirees who have 401(k) plans and/or rollover individual retirement accounts (IRAs) are working — either part time or full time — and another 14% are retired but looking for work.

So consideration for destinations that provide work opportunities is increasingly important.

You might browse craigslist for job opportunities in the area.

Other retirees are more concerned about volunteer work. Are there organizations with whom you would be interested in getting involved?

“Many retirees these days want to continue to work part time,” King says. “Specialized work may only be available in certain areas.”

Eldercare Resources: This is not a topic you might want to consider, but it is important.  Statistics indicate that you have around a 25 percent chance of requiring long term care as you age.

It is therefore important for you to think about what IF you end up needing long term care.  You should probably research whether or not where you retire has the type of eldercare resources that you might require.  If you wish to stay in your own home, is in home care available?  Are there nursing homes, Alzheimer’s facilities, etc…

Resources for Finding the Best Places to Retire

Here are some of the resources mentioned in this post as well as some additional ideas for how to research and find the best place for you to retire:

  • Zillow: Use the Best Places to Retire tool as well as research home values and available listings.
  • Retirement Calculator: Find out how much you can afford and test different scenarios for how your housing assets and expenses can impact your retirement finances.
  • Look up the local newspaper, community sites, neighborhood associations for the places you are considering:
  • Use the internet to search for the types of facilities (book stores, golf courses, airports, etc…) that will be important to you in retirement.  Make sure where you want to retire has the resources you really want.
  • Yelp: Yelp enables you to see reviews of restaurants and stores and services in any community.
  • The Patch: The Patch offers local online news for many communities but you should also research the local print paper and check them out online.
  • Nextdoor: This is a site that focuses on connecting neighbors to each other.  You might also be able to ask about what it is like to live there.
  • Craigslist or job listing sites: Use these resources to look for volunteer and work opportunities.
  • Aplaceformom: Find out about the availability of eldercare resources.
  • Medicare:  Use this tool to find out if your community has adequate numbers of doctors and hospitals that accept Medicare.

Where Are Your Best Places to Retire?

Research all you want, but ending up in the best place for you will probably involve a bit of serendipity.

The Key to a Happy Retirement?

A Great Retirement Plan!

The NewRetirement Retirement Calculator makes it easy to improve your retirement security.

1 Response to “Retirement Destination Checklist: Find the Best Places to Retire”


  1. 1 Debra Cannon

    What a great tool for people to use to really assess WHAT they want out of retirement and where they will have the best lifestyle moving into the next phase of their lives! As stated in the article, considering if continuing to work in some form (be it part time or volunteer) is a real option, desire, or even necessity for some people. Whilst I am younger, my lifestyle goals have me very much focussed on an early retirement and never having to return to a 9-5 job. I am quite happily involved with network marketing, sharing the vision and explaining the life changing products my partner company produces. We are seeing so many people of retirement age making the most of their twilight years being social and enjoying the wonderful community of like minded people following the same path to a happy, healthy and wealthy financial future!

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