Decisions on where to live when you retire are going to affect the quality of your retirement and should be made with great care, as there are a host of reasons and choices available that could determine a stress-free retirement.
Retirement villages have become a growth industry, and many people want to go and live near their favourite holiday spot and some free-spirited retirees foresee retirement as a time for travelling the globe, free from any property tying them down. When planning retirement, you need to take factors like security, personal relationships, relatives, climate and health into account. Let’s look at the factors you should consider when deciding on where to live in retirement:
Staying put in the house you are currently living in is usually a good option if your current home meets your demands and your current financial needs are not affected. You might be tempted to move to the coast, for example, which could mean leaving friends and family behind. Financially, it mostly makes sense to stay where you are and take more regular holidays to your favourite spots.
Your current assets will have a significant influence on your decision and the question of being property rich and cash poor should be considered. With a possible empty nest, downsizing a large home could be justified as you’ll save on maintenance costs and simultaneously get rid of debt if you still have a bond. Being debt-free at retirement should be a major consideration in all your retirement planning.
The adage of location, location, location still applies, but with different criteria. Although moving to a rural area, where properties are relatively cheap and living costs more affordable, the availability of medical and other services should be taken into consideration, especially as you might need medical attention, like frail-care, at a later stage, and the last thing you want to do is uproot your life at such a late stage.
Since the cost of living was mentioned, take into consideration the expensive properties and high tax rates of certain popular cities like Cape Town. Observe factors like weather, terrain, vegetation and any other factors that could impact your health, for instance, areas with a high pollen count if you suffer from allergies. A great rule of thumb is to join Facebook groups in the area(s) you would like to move to, to pick up on average prices and problems related to that area.
An essential factor to consider is security, especially since we have high crime rates in most South African cities. Elderly people are considered soft targets by criminals, so if you feel unsafe and can afford it, you should move to a safer environment. When moving to a new area, ascertain the whereabouts of the nearest police station and inquire about local security services. Installing an alarm system with armed response should not only be able to protect you from harm, but also provide a rapid response in case you fall ill or have an accident.
When it comes to retirement, family and friends are important, which will be amplified as you grow older and need more and more support. Consult your family about your move, as they could be of great help and assistance, especially when things go wrong.
Maintaining your lifestyle is important and when you decide to change your home, take account of the following: i) facilities in your new neighbourhood, such as hospitals, libraries and shops and the distances you are from these facilities; ii) downsizing is a good idea, but make space at the new property for both you and your partner for hobbies or post-retirement work; iii) the ability to lock up and go if you want to travel; and iv) pets.
Finally, examine your current or new home from a fresh viewpoint and consider the design of the house. Is the floor plan simple enough for you to move about as it gets harder and harder to move about? A level property with no external and internal stairs is preferred and bathrooms and the kitchen should be accessible for easy cleaning and maintenance. Also, at 80 years old, it is much easier to hang around in a small garden, than mowing acres of lawn on a Saturday.
Wouter Fourie is the co-author of the best-selling book The Ultimate Guide to retirement in South Africa with Bruce Cameron. Please visit www.retirementplanning.co.za for more information on this book and the top-seller Secure your Retirement.