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You’ve planned, you’ve worked hard, and now it’s finally time: retirement. Whether you’re getting ready to reap the bounty of your years of hard work, or if you’re just beginning to think about the possibility of retiring, one of the biggest questions you have to answer is: where am I going to retire?

“Getting to choose where you want to live your senior years is a great freedom of retirement,” says Mary Scott Russell, Director of Community Relations of East Ridge at Cutler Bay, Miami-Dade County’s only true life care retirement community. “You’re no longer tied to a specific location because of school commitments or a career. The possibilities are practically endless.”

Which, she admits, can be paralyzing instead of freeing. “There’s no one perfect spot because every retiree is different and has different dreams for their retirement years,” she says. “Plus, these days, there are so many potentially perfect locations to choose from. Do you want to move somewhere close to your family? Stay in an area you know and love? Move to a different locale entirely?”

Your retirement location shouldn’t be something you choose lightly. “It’s important to explore the impact that the location could have on your well-being, your lifestyle and your family commitments,” says Mary. Here are some of our top tips for helping decide the perfect location for your perfect retirement.

  1. Think about what you want retirement to look like.

Back in the day, people “retired” because they wanted to kick back and relax – generally in a warm, sunny spot. Thanks to the Boomer generation, though, “retirement” has a much different connotation – and a lot more possibility. Just take a look through the AARP magazine, and you’ll see articles about seniors who have started new careers, running marathons, building new businesses and reinventing themselves – sometimes all of the above!

Before you begin looking for the “perfect” retirement spot, spend some time thinking about what you want to accomplish (or not) in your retirement. Do you want to spend your time lounging on a beach, or golfing, or simply relaxing? Do you want an active lifestyle in a location that has everything you’d ever want to do? Do you want to take trips to new countries, or learn a new language, or pick up an old hobby you’ve put to the side? After you’ve figured out how you want to spend your retirement, you can begin to figure out where to spend your retirement.

  1. Research the cost of living.

Your financial input and output may change quite a bit once you’ve retired. You may take more trips…or not. You may go out to restaurants more…or choose to stay in and cook more often. You’ll want to calculate how much it will cost to foot the bill for your new commitments, and then go over your basic living expenses. Then, once you have an idea of how much you plan on spending in retirement, take a look at the cost of living in the places you might consider moving to. Don’t forget to calculate the prices of healthcare in the various locals – you’ll want to factor in everything from medications, therapies and services for which you’ll need to pay out of pocket.

  1. Understand what locations appeal to you.

Have you long wanted to live in an urban center where you’re within walking distance of everything you need – and have great public transportation to get to the places that are further away? Or would you prefer a more bucolic atmosphere, with wide open spaces, fields, cows and a small-town feel? Somewhere in-between? Do you want to live in a place where there’s a high senior community already (so that you can make fast friends and have activities and such geared towards your needs), or would you prefer to live in a more intergenerational-type location? Figure out what you’re looking for, and then begin searching for spots in that area.

  1. Don’t forget taxes.

Taxes are probably not high on the list when you’re looking at retirement locations, but it’s definitely something you should keep in mind. Some states have high income taxes, but don’t tax Social Security. Some states have no income taxes at all (like Florida, Nevada, Texas, Wyoming and several others). You’ll want to meet with your financial advisor once you’ve narrowed down some locations to determine what your tax profile will look like in your retirement. Although this may not be the factor that cinches the deal in one location or another, it’s something that will play a larger role than you think.

  1. Or the weather.

If you’ve been living in the snowy northern states all your life, the idea of retiring to the desert or a beachfront may be very appealing. Or you may be considering a more mountainous region so you can enjoy the great outdoors. Taking the climate into consideration will allow you to stay involved in the things you enjoy doing. Having a fulfilled life and having plenty of extracurricular activities is a great way for seniors to remain healthy, engaged, active and independent for as long as possible.

  1. Or the transportation opportunities.

How far will your new location be from your family? If you have children or grandchildren, you’re probably going to want to visit them from time to time. Would you be within driving distance? If not, is there easy access to an airport or train station? How much would it cost to get to the other location, and how often would you like to visit your family?

  1. You may want to start with a trial run.

Before making any hard-and-fast plans, why not consider trying several weeks out in the location you’re considering? This will allow you to get a feel for the area, understand the rhythm of daily life and get an on-the-ground look at the neighborhood and opportunities available to you.

“Since we’re in a desirable location, we often have residents who move here from different states,” says Mary. “We always encourage people who are considering making our community their home to do a short-term stay with us. It really gives you a feel for what life is like at our community, and allows you to explore the area like a local before making any full-time commitments.”

About East Ridge at Cutler Bay

East Ridge at Cutler Bay is Miami-Dade County’s only true life care retirement community. The not-for-profit community draws from the neighborhood charm of suburban Cutler Bay and the vibrancy of Miami in a lush tropical setting of 76 acres, located at 19301 S.W. 87th Avenue. The community offers a continuum of care including independent and assisted living apartment homes in a neighborhood setting, respite and skilled nursing care, and rehabilitation services available within Three Palms Health Center.

For more information or to schedule a tour, please call (305) 256-3564.