I have a confession to make. I am an “Escape to the Country” addict. Escape to the County is a British television program real estate reality program. The program helps house buyers who want to swap city living for a home in the English Countryside. At the beginning of each episode, the prospective buyers (the majority of which are stepping into retirement) are asked for a wish list of what they want in their new home. Yes, they want three bedrooms, two baths, and a nice garden – but many of the buyers are looking for something more than that – they are looking for a sense of community and a home that will facilitate the things they want to do in retirement. Watching over 100 episodes helped me to formulate my retirement home wish list which eventually led me to the Best Place for My Retirement.
The path to finding the best place for me took over 5 years which included 10 locations in 3 different countries, and it was a blast. I enjoyed the process of pinpointing an area that seemed to meet my criteria, conducting research online including spending hours on Zillow checking out houses. I would then use my vacation time for a Boots on the Ground visit. More about my journey later….
The Actual Truth about the Best Place to Retire
Frankly, the best place to retire depends on what fits your wants and needs. For many of us, the onset of retirement brings on our desire for a change in lifestyle or at least to examine our current one. We realize we don’t have to live in a house with bedrooms for all the kids or have a manageable commute to work. We can look at a place that is more playful than practical. For me, thinking about where I wanted to live when I do retire – was a catalyst for me to really think about what I really want to spend my days doing in retirement.
So, let’s get to work – What are Your Retirement Goals?
· Do you want to live close to family/children/grandchildren?
· If you want to live a sporty life – Golf, Fishing, Cycling, Hiking; then find a home by a golf course, or the Bay, or near cycling friendly road, or where there are multiple hiking options.
· If affordability is an issue; Look for a location with a lower cost of living.
· Have you had enough cold winters or hot summers; Pick a location with a warmer or cooler climate.
· If you have had it with a Big City and the noise, traffic, and all the people; Life in a small town or the country could be the answer.
· Are you ready to fulfill a long-held desire of trying something new; living in a different country together could be a solution.
· What if you want to pursue a new career – such as working in a National Park; look for a home near a national park. If you want to try this option out – try working for a season at one of the Parks or National Forests.
· Looking for a home with a Sense of Community; Any place you chose could have that – but how will you know? I recommend visiting the location several times, checking out what interests you, maybe attending a few events, and most importantly asking people that live in the community.
· Don’t forget that you can combine several goals, especially if you are retiring with a partner that has different interests.
My Retirement Goals
I can say that every single goal that I listed above was on my list. I came to the conclusion that I had to make a few compromises – with a tweak here or there. I eventually chose my Best Place to Retire, and that is Galveston, Texas.
· I do want to live close to family – all of which live in Texas. Most of them are in the Houston Area – 40 miles away.
· I do enjoy the outdoors. I wanted a home where I could walk out the front door and go on a walk or ride my bicycle. I live two blocks from the paved 10-mile Seawall, as well as 30 miles of beaches. I also benefit from regular Pilates Reformer Workouts. This was an area of compromise as at this time, there are no Reformer Studios on the Island. So, I purchased my very own Allegro II Reformer, which resides in my Guest Room. As I have been going to Pilates Classes for 20 years – I do know enough about form and multiple routines to have a complete workout. When I do get stuck or in a rut with my routine – I depend on YouTube for refresher sessions.
Victorian Homes on Galveston's Historical East End
· Affordability. There are a variety of types of homes in Galveston, from pricey – modest. My monthly house note – two bedroom, two bath historical home (purchased in 2020) has a monthly payment (fully escrowed including taxes, and Homeowners, Windstorm, and Flood Insurance) of $1,950 per month. Utilities are quite low in the winter – but do get higher in the Summer Months.
· Galveston has a full-time permanent resident population of 60,000. On some weekends, with tourists and second-homers – it can get up to 100,000. On the busiest weekends, I just stay off the roads or go out of town.
· Galveston has lots of social activities to partake in, Art Galleries, Museums, Theater, Night Life, Weekly Farmers Market, and Festivals throughout the year. With the miles of beaches, no matter how busy the island is – there are places to escape the crowds. Within a month of living here – I was volunteering and joined several organizations for socializing. It did not take long to feel part of the community.
· When I retire, and if I want to work - there are multiple second career opportunities here, such as a Real Estate Agent, working for one of the Cruise Lines, and the Hotels, Restaurants, and Retail Shops that are always looking for employees. So, when (if) I do retire, there are lots of opportunities for supplemental income.
· I will admit, I am not a fan of long, hot, and humid summers. Galveston weather from September – May is delightful. Winters are mild, and temperatures below 40 are uncommon. I only turned on the heat 4 times last winter.
· The Galveston summers along with the intriguing opportunity of living somewhere completely different were two of the criteria that I have to compromise on, and I have a plan for that. I plan to spend my summers off the island somewhere where it is much cooler and somewhere different or more exotic. I will spend summers, renting something small and affordable in places like Maine, Nova Scotia, Ireland, or France. If I can find a part-time job to supplement my income, and or in lieu of salary – employer-provided housing - that would be a plus. I could meet people, socialize, and really get to know the area – for me, that would be a great adventure.
So, start planning and putting into action your Retirement Adventure, – because as Yogi Berra stated “If you don’t know where you are going, you will end up someplace else.”
Resources for Your Best Places to Retire
· Livability Index - AARP.
· Best Cities to Retire in With Just your Social Security Income – The Balance.
· Where and How to Retire Abroad – International Living.
· Seasonal Jobs in the US – Cool Jobs.