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  • 3-Minute Article
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  • Oct 06, 2017

Tips for Visiting a Retirement Destination Before Relocation

Fact-finding missions help you choose where to retire wisely. Take these 4 steps.

Created in Collaboration with Kiplinger as a part of our Moving in Retirement series.

For some people, a “perfect” retirement may involve trading snowbound winters for sunny beaches. But the reality of those dreams may be different from what people envision. That’s why it can be a good idea to test a retirement destination before committing. Use these four practical tips to design strategic vacations that guide your research and help assess whether your financial plan supports your desired retirement location.

Those just beginning a search should think about the top benefits they want in a retirement location, then review the best-places-to-live rankings. Lists like these can be a handy guide for prioritizing considerations. Just understand that each source uses its own ranking system of features — and everyone’s personal criteria may be different. For instance, some people may be fine with higher taxes if it means being able to take advantage of more public amenities, such as bike paths, community centers, and tennis courts.

Visiting a prospective destination for as much time as possible before making a move can bring the pros and cons of a place into focus. It’s also important to take trips in different seasons. To make that happen, explore a host of cost-effective lodging options geared for longer-term visits.

An alternative to hotels, B&Bs, or timeshares, popular online rental platforms such as AirbnbHomeAway, and VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) list properties for rent directly from owners, providing the chance to experience a city or neighborhood as full-time residents do. These sites have a huge assortment of options in every price range that can be filtered by area and amenities.

Another economical option? Home exchanges such as HomeExchange, HomeLink, Intervac Home Exchange, and Love Home Swap, let homeowners trade houses with one another, each exploring a destination of their choice. Swapping works best for people with an appealing place to offer: One couple in New York, for example, swapped their Manhattan brownstone for a ski condo in Park City, Utah. When a match is made, the trade itself is usually free for both parties (most exchanges are membership-based). Savings like that can add up — meaning you may be able to afford a much longer stay.

Once you arrive, it’s time to put a reconnaissance mission into action. Gauge the local economy, assess the culture, and probe must-have amenities and services. Gain a sense of everyday life. That means going where residents go and striking up conversations while there. Shop at the local grocery store, take public transportation, and check proximity of quality health care. Duck into local coffee shops for a revealing look at the residents and vibe of a neighborhood. Read local newspapers and ask librarians about online neighborhood newsletters or listservs, public lectures, free events, festivals, and community traditions.

Considering buying a home? Visit the city hall or county seat to learn about flood plains, planned developments, and senior services. And use real estate apps to receive notifications of market activity.

After narrowing the choices, consider renting a place in the prospective locale for as long as six months to a year. That will help determine if the fit will be right long-term. No matter what the final decision is, it’s wise to study options under the money microscope, too.

To begin developing a plan for your retirement relocation dream, talk to your financial professional. You can also use our Future Income Planner to examine your everyday budget, prioritize financial goals, and outline guaranteed income sources during retirement. By doing so, you’ll be able to better compare current expenses to future costs if you move.

Kiplinger has an in-house content studio, which reports on investing, retirement planning and wise money management for its partner organizations, providing trustworthy advice and guidance for their readers.