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Couples Considering a Move in Retirement? A Shared Vision Can Help!

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by Denis Wuestman

Probably one of the most difficult decisions individuals and couples face when they retire is if and when they will move from their primary residence.   Many factors impact this including financial, family needs and health to name a few. For couples, a unified vision of life in retirement can aid this big decision.

3 Key Questions

Aside from financial preparedness for retirement, this is an area that many of my colleagues struggle with soon after they retire. Here are a series of questions I like to ask when this topic comes up:

  1. Why do you want to move? I think many people approach a move as leaving something vs. moving towards something. While it could be combination of the two – it helps to be moving toward something. To that end, my next question is:
  2. What is your vision for retirement? Here are some key things that could impact a choice of retirement location for couples to consider:
    • What will you be doing in retirement? Describe what you think your daily activities will be. Hopefully you have spent some time thinking about what is meaningful and fulfilling to you. Are you going to continue to work, to play or a combination of both?
    • What will your lifestyle look like to sync with your activities? Some may choose to enjoy more of an urban life style like a city where there are many activities. Or, how about a quieter town setting, with access to a university system for continued learning?
    • What type of climate will fit your vision and lifestyle?  If you plan on spending a lot of time outdoors– that may rule out certain parts of the country.
    • How do you see your retirement years in terms of your current family and friends? Do you want or need to be near a relative or a friend? If you have children, how important is it for you to be near them when they have children?   Do you see yourself easily getting on a plane to visit family or friends? How much will you miss them and how might you replace that?
    • What will make you comfortable with regards to caring for your health needs? Is there a good network of doctors where you want to live? Will you have to move again to be closer to top tier medical care if the need arose?
    • What size and type of house do you see yourself in? Perhaps there is no longer a need for the size of your current home, or you prefer less space to simplify your personal “clutter”.  Where will the kids stay when they come for a visit?
    • Related to the size of home, you will want to identify the projected care and cost of your future retirement “home”. On the care side – consider how much energy you plan to put into caring for your home – like painting, cutting grass, planting flowers, shoveling snow, etc.   This may dictate whether the future home is a single-family home, a community residence or an apartment building. On the cost side – what expense budget will you have for your future home? I see many people note that they are moving because it is “just too expensive where they live today” – so they want to move. Ok – think forward – define what level of spend you are willing to tolerate in your future retirement location?
    • What do you like about your current home that you wish you could take with you? Perhaps you have a backyard that you enjoy and picture yourself using in retirement?
    • On the flip side – what about your current home will you not miss? Could be the stairs in a colonial or the long driveway you have to shovel when it snows.
  1. What does your spouse or significant other think and feel? Are your visions aligned? This is where it gets interesting…. as it is not unusual for couples to struggle. I am an optimist here– if they made it to retirement age together, and especially if they raised a family, they will figure it out, albeit they may need some help.

4 Pointers for Partners

Here are some pointers to help align with your partner:

  1. Separately create your vision based on the items above.
  2. Share/Compare your results. Highlight key areas in common and note the differences. You may also want to prioritize the most important ones.
  3. Discuss with each other. What do you each consider a “must have” vs. not as important? A healthy exchange between partners to understand why things are important to each will help make a better decision.
  4. What’s next? You will likely have to take the more important areas, where you do not have alignment, and work on those together by getting more information or agreeing on trade-offs.

And Lastly

Satisfying your collective vision is the clear way to get this right. Don’t fall into the trap of making a move purely based on finances – “it’s less expensive so I am moving”. This tends to be too knee-jerk and stands a good chance of falling short.

If you are thinking about moving away from your current home town/city, “try it before you buy it”.   Seems kind of obvious, but you can learn a lot from experimenting and researching. One option would be to visit the targeted area for more than a few days. Also, find people you may know or can easily connect to that live near the target location. Talk to them about what they like and what they don’t like.

I am sure this may have scratched the tip of the iceberg for many couples. Since this takes careful planning and discussion – give yourself some time to create your joint vision on this topic. Good planning and patience, whether you stay where you are or move, goes a long way to help get this right!


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1 Comment

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