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How to find a place to retire
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He calls the list a "recipe" of things that are important to you. He recommends keeping it to around 15 to 20 items. "Then go through the struggle with your significant other by putting them in order, so if you have something that's No. 1 there can't be another No. 1."

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3. Find out what your target places are like
Once you have a list of things you want in a community, do some research in books and online, and consult your memory of past vacations to come up with a prospective list of cities.

Remember to include the town where you live now. "Evaluate how closely you're tied with your local area," Schiller says: You have friends and maybe family nearby, and you know your doctor and belong to local organizations. About three-quarters of retirees consider relocating, and about three-quarters end up within 50 miles of where they were living before retirement.

Don't automatically move to your favorite vacation destination. If you like Florida or Arizona in winter, you might hate it in summer. You might enjoy the autumn leaves in the Berkshires, but find it brutally cold in winter.

If you can swing it financially, try to live for at least a few weeks each in the places you're considering. Bland recommends spending a lot of time there at the worst time of the year -- when it's most crowded with tourists or students or when the weather is least comfortable. He and his wife spent three winters in a row in Portland, when the weather is at its cloudiest. They liked it anyway.

The cost of living is lower in Portland, too -- at least, for the Blands. After all, they live in Los Angeles, with some of the highest home values in the country. A lot of retirees have owned homes for a long time in high-price areas, and they can take advantage of what Bland calls "equity take" -- selling a house for a lot of money, buying a home elsewhere for much less, and saving the rest to fund retirement.

Schiller warns people not to focus too much on the cost of living. There are other factors that are easy to overlook, such as the residents' level of education. Subscribers to NeighborhoodScout (cost varies from $19.95 for a week to $99.95 for a year) can map the education levels of an area's residents, find out where the best public schools are and so on.

Remember that you probably will end up selling the house someday, so even though you don't have children, you might want to buy in a good school district, so the home's value holds up.

4. Beware churn
Many retirees move, then discover that they chose the wrong place. So they move back to where they came from. Schiller calls this "churn," and notes that it wastes a lot of money -- moving charges, real estate commissions and so on. Churn is stressful, too.

In Phoenix, Schiller says, for every five people who move to the city, three move out. Florida has a lot of churn, too, he says, as Northeasterners move to the Sunshine State and discover that it's sunnier, hotter and more humid in the summer than they dreamed possible.

You could embrace another kind of churn. Many retirees split their time between two homes, and others live the nomadic life in a recreational vehicle or aboard a boat. They even do that while working part time, Kelly says: "The options for these folks are just all over the board given their interests and the ability to telecommute."

Bankrate.com's corrections policy-- Posted: Oct. 20, 2005
 
 
More stories by Holden Lewis
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