We have the ability move to another location in retirement more than any previous generation. Many of us have travelled to or lived in other locations, so we are comfortable with visiting or living in a new location. Sometimes, we have dreamed about living in and exploring a new place. Whatever our reasons, travel options and technology allows us to live comfortably in a different part of the United States or even internationally. With so many options, however, deciding where to live includes a myriad of things to consider. My guest, Susan Ackley shares some things to consider when making this decision. To learn more about Susan or to contact her, visit her website CompassPointLLC.org. To read Susan’s entire chapter on this topic, pick up your copy of The Retirement Challenge- A Non-Financial Guide From Top Retirement Experts.
RS: The topic for today’s episode is Deciding Where To Live In Retirement and my guest is fellow retirement coach and author Susan Ackley. She resides in the Chicago area. Susan and I both wrote chapters in the book The Retirement Challenge: A Non-Financial Guide From Top Retirement Experts. And Susan wrote a chapter in the book by the same title as today’s episode. You can learn more about Susan and her retirement coaching on her website, which is Compass Point LLC (compasspointllc.org). I will include a link to the website in the transcript. So welcome Susan. I look forward to discussing this topic with you. You and I have spoken about this topic in the past and we both think it’s really an important one for people as they transition into retirement.
SA: Well, thank you. Reid thank you for having me on. I really appreciate it. It’s good to be here and good to see you.
RS: I think it’s such a great topic to talk about and discuss and I really enjoy your topic (chapter) in the book. More and more people, I think as they transitioned into retirement, and I really think it starts with a lot of the baby boomers is, we are much more…we’ve traveled abroad, we’ve lived abroad, we’ve moved to different states. We’re just much more mobile than previous generations. And I think what that ultimately lends itself to, is when we get to retirement, we think about traveling or living in these other places. Places again, where we’ve visited, we’ve lived in previously. You and I both live in northern climates, you in Chicago, myself in Minneapolis. And we know a lot of people who are snowbirds who go live down south for much of the year.
RS: But who still enjoy the area up here. A lot of people have kids who move to different areas. They perhaps follow their kids. So there’s just a lot of things to think about when, when thinking about deciding where to live in retirement.
RS: So, one of the things that I really liked about your chapter, Susan, was that you created it in such a way as it was like a plan. You list a lot of questions and a lot of things that we all have to think about when making this decision. So I really liked that, and your chapter begins by offering two starting points to help people decide where to live in retirement. And the two starting points are: taking the time to look at and be aware of the myriad of options. And then secondly, to know yourself and what you want. So the first question I wanted to pose to you is why is it so important for people to take the time to look at and be aware of the myriad of options available to us when deciding where to live in retirement?
SA: Well, not every everywhere offers the same things that other places offer. So for instance, in the United States, we pretty much offer convenience. You can get your Amazon package delivered. That seems to be a big topic. Your Amazon package delivered to you in a relatively short period of time. If you live in another country, that is a much more difficult thing to do. So, convenience is an option here and some people tolerate that better than others. It’s about learning the things that are available in that location. Now, many people travel to an area for the weather. And of course we in the upper Midwest, we have our own issues to deal with here. But the summertime’s are beautiful winters not so much. So you just have to know what you want, what you like, what you don’t like. If you can’t handle temperatures that are in the hundred plus degrees in the summertime and then you’re not going to move to the desert. If you can’t… If you need for a health reason to live somewhere warm and dry than the desert would be a good option for you. So it’s just what your needs are, what’s available, what you can tolerate. And that’s all about knowing yourself really well and what you want and what you need.
RS: And I think that’s interesting that you mentioned convenience because that’s one thing that I don’t think a lot of people think about. They think about the weather and they think about the amenities and things like that. But just the simple things like getting a package delivered or having restaurants close or whatever it is. We’re so used to having everything at our fingertips here and it’s not like that in a lot of either rural places in the United States or places particularly outside of the country.
SA: Yes. And language is another issue. If you choose to move to let’s say Spain or you moved to Central America, language may be an issue and it be maybe a barrier, it may be a barrier that you may not be able to overcome easily or shortly. So those are all things to consider.
RS: So, knowing yourself and what you want seems relatively straightforward, I think to a lot of people. But explain that a little bit more and maybe where do you see people running into trouble if they don’t know themselves and what they want?
SA: Okay. Well, making a snap decision or an impulsive decision (about where to live) doesn’t really work very well because then there’s this repent in leisure type thing. Some people may be pleasantly surprised what they get, but if you don’t know yourself, if you don’t know what you can tolerate easily and well, if you have to have HBO everywhere you go and Wi-fi is a limited option, then guess what, you’re not going to be very happy.
The other piece of knowing yourself is, if you have a spouse or a partner, if you are both not on the same page and both know what you want and are able to negotiate that, that can become a big issue in both your marriage and where you’re going to live. And what I’ve seen happen is that sometimes people just end up not moving at all. They just stay exactly where they are, even though they have this desire to move somewhere else. They just can’t either come to an agreement or they can’t decide because there are so many options. So the better you know yourself, the better you can sift through the myriad of options that are available in the world of where you want to live. I mean, the world is really our oyster these days, so we can virtually live anywhere, as long as we can overcome the hurdles of… If there’s immigration or money or other things that may impede our ability to live in that place.
RS: I think that’s a key point that you mentioned too Susan was being on the same page with your spouse. Because we each, I think potentially, have different visions of what this time looks like and where we want to live. And so it really takes working through a lot of those questions that you have in your chapter in the book, and making sure that you’re both on the same page.
SA: Yes. In the book I talk about a couple of Matt and Janny. And at the start, when they first sat in front of me, or when we first talked, they were definitely not on the same page. They had definite different ideas of what they wanted to do with their retirement, where they wanted to live. So, if you read the book, you’ll read the story of Matt Janny. Of course that story is still ongoing. It’s not resolved yet and it may not be resolved for years to come because they are younger retirees but they’re in a place and exploring.
RS: That’s interesting that you talk about Matt and Janny because that was actually my next question I wanted to pose to you. You include this interesting story about them, and they had trouble deciding where to retire. So give us just a little bit of the background story of Matt and Janny and how you helped them sort out their options. We won’t get into, again the their entire story, but let’s say at least kind of look at the beginning of where they were at and how you help them sort out their options.
SA: Okay. Well, um, Matt retired, he was a little bit older than Jannie and he retired in his mid-fifties and Janny was going to retire in the near future. This is at the beginning of our relationship or coaching. Matt had wanted to move to Florida and that was it. That’s what he wanted. And Janny…they had two young adult children and their son was floundering a little bit. So Janny…they had traveled to Panama and had seen Panama at one point and decided (Jannie had decided this, Matt hadn’t decided this) that that would be the perfect location for them to move. They could start a water sports business, which their son could then be involved in, of course she didn’t talk to their son about this at all. But she just had this idea in our head about what it would look like, what it would be like, and how wonderful it would be that they would all be together in a warm climate.
SA: Because they did know that they wanted to move somewhere warm, or at least be in a warm climate in the winter. So when we first started, we had to sort of chink away at a lot of their preconceived ideas of what they thought they wanted. And, essentially what they really had to do was do a lot of research on what they wanted., Where they wanted to live, what they wanted to do, where they wanted to go, what they saw as their future, because they both had very different ideas, and that was a problem. So we had some pretty tense moments, but it ended up working out. They downsized from the big house that they were in, their family home, and they just started traveling. And that’s essentially what they’re doing now is researching what’s out there, what’s not. Now, Matt for himself, they bought a place in Florida. A condo that they could go stay in the wintertime that had some of the activities that Janny liked and some of the activities that Matt liked.
RS: So, one of the things that I think is working for them, it sounds like, is as they travel to these different locations, that (their travels) is part of the research… to figure out which location really, ultimately, is the best location for them.
SA: Yes. So when they travel somewhere, they try to stay in that location for two to four weeks at a minimum and try to live like live like they live there. So, they don’t go to a hotel, they usually do an Airbnb or VRBO or rent something if that’s available. And, they cook their meals, they go to the grocery store, they try to meet the people around them, they see what activities are available. And that’s what I advise other people to do. If they’re looking for somewhere to try out…try out what will work for them and what won’t.
RS: Yep. Give it a test drive, right?
SA: Yes, exactly. Now some people may have already done that. They may have already spent a lot of time in an area. What I’ve been seeing lately is people who went to an area when they were children, if they went to a lake or whatever. And many of them are moving back because they remember that. They remember, they know what it’s like. They know how convenient it is. And, the culture, essentially the culture of where that location is. Now, of course, many places have had some major development, but this is something that they can get around.
RS: Yeah, that’s interesting. With so many choices, considerations and factors for people to think about. Give us just a few, maybe some of the more important ones, so people can get an idea of the many facets of deciding where to live in retirement.
SA: Well, I’ll speak from my own experience. I’m still searching for somewhere to go, but weather is a factor. Okay. I will probably continue to have a hybrid location because I like being here. I have family and friends where I am locally near Chicago and (while) I don’t like the weather in the winter, I would probably have a hybrid. Of course maybe down the road in the future I may decide, hey, I’m just going to pick up and move to the Canary Islands, let’s just say the Canary Islands. And, if I did decide to do that, immigration would be a big thing. I’d have to look at how I can stay in that location. If it’s an international location, how would I stay in that location legally with all of the benefits? How would I get my social security checks? How would I take money out? I mean money is a factor as well. So, it seems like we talk about one topic and we quickly move to another. So we talk about immigration, now how do we get our money? How do we do this… is banking easy? How do people come to visit me? Do I rent? Do I buy? It just opens up a can of worms.
RS: Yeah, and I think that’s one thing too that you mentioned in your book (chapter) is, as people are working through these different decisions, one decision leads into a different set of questions and decisions which leads into follow up decisions, just like you were mentioning in your examples. And I think that’s what makes this decision really challenging is those issues that you’re mentioning that people don’t or haven’t thought of a lot of times, especially when moving internationally.
SA: Yes. Yes. Well even state to state. I mean if you’re going to move to a state that has a very high state income tax, I mean that also is a factor that you have to think about. If the sales tax is 12% and you’ve been in a state where you’re paying 2%, that’s a big chunk that (comes) out of your monthly budget. So you know, I don’t usually talk about money because I’m a nonfinancial retirement coach, but in this regard you really have to think about money. Some people think if they moved to Central America, well it’s just going to be so cheap. But that’s really not the reality. I mean it can cost you what it costs you and the decisions that you make affect that bottom line.
RS: Yep. Good points. In another section of your chapter, you talked about some of the do’s and don’ts to consider when making the decision. So give us some of the do’s and some of the don’ts that people need to think about, maybe some of them that they (people) haven’t given much thought to. Some of them that pop up that we aren’t as familiar with.
SA: Okay, well I did just talk about one of them and that’s banking. So, if you move somewhere, let’s say you’re a snowbird and you decide you’re going to spend part of your time where you live. And the situation that I talked about, the hybrid situation. Does your bank have a branch there? You can do many things online, if your Wi-Fi is fine, but that can just create some big problems that you don’t want to encounter. How do I get money? I mean that can cause feelings of desperation. But the other piece is immigration. Is there an embassy- if you’re moving internationally, is there an embassy that you can go to? It’s even just silly things like if you move to this location, let’s say it’s in the United States, are you able to keep your car there for a lengthy period of time registered in the state that you’re from?
SA: Or, do you have to change the registration or do you leave your car at home and you buy another car? It’s just, I mean I know those may seem like very small decisions, but in the grand scheme of things it just adds up. It can add up to some despair and some chaos and you (end up) just throwing your hands up. I’m not doing this. So it’s like when you build a house or remodel a house. You have so many decisions to make in that moment and what you want to have happen may not be able to happen based upon the decisions that you make. So if you want a bathroom that has a chrome faucet, you have to buy a chrome faucet, but do you buy a single-handle faucet or do you buy a double-handle faucet.
SA: I know I’m getting off on a different tangent, but it is a similar type thing. It’s just so many decisions that have to be made and they build on top of each other. So I’m not sure I quite answered that question about the do’s and don’ts, but immigration is a big one. If it’s (moving) internationally, do they allow retirees…because there are some communities that do… Panama and Costa Rica have retiree visas. I think Spain and also parts of the EU also do as well. But the EU is big, of course, the value of the euro is higher than the value of the dollar. So, it may end up costing you more money. But what’s the cost of living in the location where you’re going? This is something you can manage.
RS: There’s a whole long list of questions to work through, which again, we don’t have time to cover all of those The best way to do that is to either read the chapter or to contact Susan for more information. So, before we end our conversation today, Susan, is there anything you’d like to mention either about the chapter, anything I didn’t ask about, or is there something else you’d want to share with the audience about deciding where to live in retirement?
SA: Well, I will just give a minor tip. I have recently become aware of a real estate designation that is called a senior real estate specialist. And the biggest thing is they are trained, this group of real estate people, are trained to work with people in transition, particularly seniors. They are very well versed on the needs of seniors and people in retirement. So I have recently been working with a couple of people who, these SRA real estate brokers who have been so helpful. And in terms of the transition in terms of helping people stage their homes, in terms of helping people find something that is appropriate for where they want to live, and asking many of the questions that I might as a coach might ask except from a real estate perspective. So, uh, if that’s a possibility of finding someone who’s designated as a senior real estate specialist, that might be a really good option for someone who’s looking to downsize.
SA: The other thing is I am working on another book, a chapter in another book, about what to do with all the stuff. So now you’ve decided where you want to live, where do you put all the stuff that you have, a lifetime of things. So, that’s I guess the other thing to think of is what do you do with grandma’s thimble collection or whatever it may be.
RS: That’s a good topic for a future episode I think Susan. Because that’s the other part of it is if you want to move and where you move to, you probably don’t need all of your stuff. And so you need to downsize. You need to… a lot of people move from a very large home to a smaller home. Of course they don’t have room for all of their things. So, what do you do with those? Which ones are the most important? Which ones do you keep? Which ones do you give away? Which ones do you put into storage? There’s all kinds of decisions that that come up around that topic too.
SA: Yes, almost as many as with deciding where living retirement. Thank you. Thank you Reid very much.
RS: Absolutely. Thank you Susan for joining me today, for sharing your chapter with us on deciding where to live in retirement. I am sure it is a topic that we could explore much more. Hopefully in a future episode, we’ll get to touch on it again.
SA: Thank you Reid very much.
RS: Thanks for joining us everybody. We’ll see you next time.