Where Is “Home”? Figuring It Out In Your 60s

Several years ago, when I was in my late 50’s and my husband was in his early 60’s, we stopped working full time in our business. With a management team in place, we were able to spend half of the year in St. Petersburg, Florida (where our company is located) and half in St. George, Maine. But we talked often about our future retirement years. Where would we call home? Did we want to stay in Florida or Maine… or move somewhere else?

Not everyone, of course, has an option. Health issues, financial constraints or family obligations might make this a moot point. But for those of us with some freedom to choose, the decision can be fun … and difficult.

A recent article in USA Today reported that retirement moves, which dropped sharply during the recession, are making a comeback. Florida is gaining 55,000 retirees each year, Arizona has seen an 18% increase and South Carolina 6%. North Carolina is a choice for many “half-backs” who don’t want to stay in Florida, but don’t want to return to the North either.

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I’m not sure what percentage of retirees actually make a move to another city, but one survey seems to indicate that if people decide to move, it is usually going to be before age 65.

… 73 percent of people between 18 and 29 would consider a move when it’s time to stop working. That rate drops to 62 percent for people ages 30 to 49, then to 50 percent for ages 50 to 64. Among survey takers age 65 and older, only about 1 in 5 said they would consider moving.

I’ve talked to many people in their 50’s and 60’s, and decisions about moving generally involve sorting through a lot of information… and often dealing with strong emotions.

Ray and I spent a lot of time on our decision journey. We talked to friends. We discussed the pros and cons of staying in Florida or Maine. We explored other cities. We made a decision, reconsidered, and then decided again. Finally, even before retirement, we chose to move to Asheville, North Carolina. Here’s what we considered:

Closeness to immediate family

Given how irritating it is to travel by plane, we wanted to be able to see children and grandchildren (who don’t all live in the same cities) within a 4 to 5 hour drive … a drive that might also be reasonable for them to make to see us. Having brothers, sisters and other assorted relatives within that drivable range was an important consideration, too.

Availability and quality of healthcare

This was a big deal for us, not because we aren’t healthy, but because we hope to stay that way and want to be prepared if (when) we have issues later in life.

Moderate climate

As I write this (April), it’s still snowing in Maine and it is in the mid-80s in Florida. We love both of those states, but it’s 65 in Asheville. A climate that doesn’t get extremely cold or extremely hot was important to us, especially since we both enjoy playing golf.

Availability of things we like to do

We wanted to live in an interesting city with great restaurants and music that also had a wide variety of outdoor activities, including walking trails, concerts and art shows. Did I mention golf?

Probability of friends visiting us

Since we would be moving away from good, long-time friends in both Florida and Maine, we hoped that our new home would be a place they might like to visit.

A special house

We wanted a home that we would love and one that provided a peaceful setting – preferably with mountain views, song birds at our feeder, occasional bears and deer, a place for our labradoodle to run and quiet star-filled evenings.

Probability of establishing new friendships

We wanted to meet people who were interesting – but also, people who were interested in forming new friendships. A city with other “transplants” seemed ideal.

Getting back to our roots

This wasn’t something we consciously put on our list or talked much about when we were considering our move. However, Ray grew up in a nearby South Carolina town and traveled to the mountains of North Carolina as a boy. And I vacationed with my family in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee many times when I was a young girl living in Cincinnati. The mountains felt good to both of us.

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Everyone over 60 who considers moving to another city will have different criteria and priorities. However, one thing seems clear to me: If you’re going to do it, you should probably do it while you’re young enough to deal with the actual move, while you have the energy to work on establishing new relationships, while you are healthy enough to take the time you need to find good healthcare providers, and while you are mobile enough to learn your way around the area and enjoy what it has to offer.

For me, it’s been a great move. Cool mountain air, a fabulous new home, a quirky city, wonderful music and restaurants, many interesting new friends, lots of visitors and a comfortable drive to visit kids, grandkids and siblings.

Half-backs? I guess that’s us.

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Cathy Green