SOME PEOPLE DREAM FOR years about moving to a retirement community. You might be able to forge new friendships and pursue interesting leisure activities in a community that caters exclusively to retirees. However, some retirees are disappointed by an age-restricted community that doesn’t meet their needs.

Here’s how to avoid retirement community regrets:

  • Get to know your new neighbors before making a move.
  • Consider whether you want to live exclusively among retirees.
  • Don’t move away from the amenities you will need.
  • Consider how easy it will be to change your mind.

Carefully consider your budget, desired activities and whether you want to spend your retirement years with primarily other retirees or among people of all ages before relocating to a retirement community.

Get to Know Your New Neighbors Before Making a Move

Walk around potential retirement neighborhoods and talk to the residents. “Get their opinions. Are they happy? What needs improvement? What do they like the most?” says Tim Sullivan, founder and CEO of Strategic Wealth Advisors Group in Shelby Township, Michigan. Sullivan says one of his clients was expecting to meet many new friends when he relocated, but found out he had very little in common with his neighbors. Another couple moved to a retirement community in Florida and discovered it was nothing like they had anticipated. “There was a lot of partying and sex, and they realized it was a swinging community,” Sullivan says. “After six months they moved out.”

Consider Whether You Want to Live Exclusively Among Retirees

Age-restricted retirement communities are comprised largely of older residents, such as those 55 or older. While some people enjoy the company of other retirees, you might find that you miss living in a community with people in different stages of life. Mitchell Katz, co-founder of Capital Associates Wealth Management in Bethesda, Maryland, recalls a married couple who loved to golf and found what they thought would be the perfect retirement golfing community for their early retirement. “It turned out they were the youngest people there by a wide margin,” Katz says. “They didn’t fit in. The people who lived there were nice, but they (the couple) were too young. It was an epic fail. They had to leave.” Katz says the couple moved back home and took two years to reevaluate what retirement meant to them. “Ultimately, they moved to a different state that fit better,” Katz says.

Don’t Move Away From the Amenities You Will Need

A small town retirement isn’t right for everyone, especially if you will be far away from the services you need, including health care, shopping and transportation. If you have always lived in a city, think about whether you will be happy in more remote surroundings and how easy it will be for friends and family to visit. Katz says a couple in their mid-60s retired to a dream retirement home away from the city, but as they got older, they realized it wasn’t going to work for them. The place was too isolated. They were too far from the best medical facilities and a long way from the airport. It took them 25 minutes to get to the nearest Whole Foods supermarket. “Everything was fine when they moved to their home, but as they got older, they realized it would not work going forward,” Katz says. “Ultimately, they chose a place they thought would be perfect, but as they became older it became untenable for them to live there.”

Consider How Easy It Will Be to Change Your Mind

Moving to a new community is expensive and time consuming, and it’s not always easy to relocate again if you don’t like the area. Retirees should do a little investigating before they move away. “Before you make a decision, you should visit. Know what your surroundings are. Make sure it fits what you are looking for,” Sullivan says. “Don’t purchase anything unless you’re sure. Look at the independence you are giving up. It’s nice to have people cutting your grass or shoveling snow, but know what you are getting into before you do it.”

Visiting your new community once for a couple of days may not be enough to see if it’s everything you hope it will be. Be sure your new home and community will fit with your lifestyle and budget. Consider renting for a period of time to see if your new community will work for you. Make sure there are facilities that will allow you to participate in the activities that you love most, whether that’s biking and hiking trails or movie theaters. “You saved your whole life,” Katz says. “Don’t make a big mistake.”


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