Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Five Tips to a Retirement Fit to You

Whether retirement looks like beach lounging, golfing till the sun goes down, or volunteering at a local shelter, you have the freedom to do as your heart feels. You can even dramatically reduce your cost of living or improve your quality of life. But you want to make sure to pick a retirement spot that will continue to meet your needs as you age. Here are five tips for finding your ideal retirement spot:

1. Seek lower costs for living. If you can sell your large home house and move to a more easily and cost friendly home, you can use that influx of cash to help fund your retirement years. "If the cost of living is lower, it can certainly let your retirement nest egg last a little longer," says Scott Cole, a certified financial planner for Cole Financial Planning in Birmingham, Ala. "We do see people who had a lot of their investments tied up in their house, and they were able to liquidate that house, net a significant gain and then come and buy a pretty similar house, if not much nicer house, here [in Alabama], and then use the rest of that money for retirement income." Other options include renovating your current home to meet your needs as you age or finding a home that does allow for aging in place.

2. Look for great amenities. Think about how you want to spend your retirement years, and make sure your retirement spot has the resources for you to follow through with those. Look for pools, tennis courts, golf courses, parks, fitness centers, or other activities you would like to take part in. "If you want to be pursuing your education, you might be looking for a college or other learning venues," says Mary Languirand, author of "How to Age in Place: Planning for a Happy, Independent, and Financially Secure Retirement." "If there are travel options you want to pursue, you are going to need to be near an airport or a train station."

3. Health care accessibility is essential. Make sure any community you are considering has adequate medical facilities and doctors that are taking on new patients. If you have any ongoing medical condition, or predisposition for a specific illness that runs in the family, it may be useful to retire near medical professionals who specialize in treating it.

4. Calculate the impact taxes will take. Taxes vary considerably by state or county, and you can often reduce your costs considerably by moving to an area of low-tax. Take a look at state taxes on pensions, Social Security, income tax, property tax, sales tax, and any special tax perks available for senior citizens. However, consider that there may be less help available to senior citizens in low-tax areas so definitely do your research. "There are some services for senior citizens that might actually be better met in a higher-cost community," Languirand says. "In rural areas, it is not unusual to have no public transportation or the special transportation services that people with lower mobility require."

5. If desired, aim to be in close proximity of family and friends. Family and friends can enrich retirement years and provide significant (and often free) help when needed. "If somebody has lived in the same place their whole life and that's where their social network is and where the people they depend on are, then it's much harder to pick up and build a new network of support where you don't know anybody and you have to start from scratch," says Cynthia Conger, president of Conger Wealth Management in Little Rock, Ark. "Rather than being able to depend upon a support network of people you know, you might now have to pay for services that might have been done by people who were friends. You might end up paying more." If you do move to a new community, you will need to create a new circle of friends. "An activity like golf or bridge will get [you] into another social network," Conger says.

Above all, retirement is unique to everyone. If that means going into the office one day a week, traveling around the world, mentoring newbies in your field or laying on a beach without a care, then that is your "retirement". 

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