One of the staples of satisfying retirement-based web sites and blogs are all sorts of lists that suggest the best places to retire. I'm sure you have seen them: the Top 10 college towns, the best places in Florida or North Carolina or (name a state), the best beach towns, the best mountain towns....and on and on. Based on various criteria, these lists suggest where you would be happy and content if you'd just relocate to one of their choices.
There is one value in all these lists. An area of the country or a particular criteria that you hadn't considered may cause you to think more deeply about your post-retirement living choice. Gathering as much information as possible before making such a major, life-changing decision is always a good thing.
What I caution against is the awareness that someone's opinion of "the best" anything is just an opinion, or even a sales pitch. Making a move after retirement is one of the most important decisions you will make. I have had all sorts of e-mails from folks wondering about the wisdom of moving closer to kids or grandkids, moving near the beach or mountains, or trying a new city on the opposite side or the country.
My comments to each of them is the same: think long and hard before uprooting yourself from the familiar. Retirement is a substantial life change. Pile a move on top of that and you are setting yourself up for a double dose of serious stress. As we age it becomes more difficult to replace long-term friendships. It is harder to start all over again with doctors, shopping choices, your church and social organiztions. There are major costs involved with a move of any distance.
My best advice is to stay put for the time being. Maybe a move closer to family is best. Perhaps you are sick of winter and want the warmth of Arizona or Florida. Maybe, you want to spend your summers in one climate and winters somewhere else. All of those options are available to you upon retirement. But, please, don't rush into such a change. Give yourself at least a year to adjust to how you handle retirement. Spend a few weeks in a place you are thinking of moving. Live there part time during different seasons of the year. Then, if you are still happy about the decision go ahead and move if you can afford to do so.
What I find almost comical is that every list couldn't be the "best." If I Google the term "best retirement towns " over 2 million web sites pop up. Potentially, that is more than every city, town, and hamlet in the country! Obviously the same key spots show up of most of the lists. But, how could the authors possibilty predict which is "best" for anyone other than themselves?
If you are thinking about a move, besides waiting at least a year after retirement do your homework. Make up your own list of what a new location should have: good restaurants, museums, live theaters for plays and musicals, near a college? Or, maybe none of that means anything to you. Your list includes being near a lake or the mountains, lots of biking and hiking trails, a climate that allows you to grow your own vegetables, plenty of wide open spaces, and no suburbs.
Don't forget to look at the cost of living, taxes, availablity of good medical care, whether you are near enough to an airport if you want to fly to visit family members, good local transportation...even high speed Internet access! We tend to take that for granted, but a lot of rural areas do not lend themselves to computer connectivity. If that is important to you then take the time to check it out.
The bottom line is simple: a published list of the "best retirement towns" should not be your source for picking a new place to live. The "best" retirement location is one that fits your specific, unique needs and helps you enjoy a truly satisfying retirement. And for an increasing number of us, the best retirement place is exactly where we live now. We don't need a list...we have already found our home.