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Making the Right Retirement Relocation Choice

Dave Bernard
When the auction action goes to Homeland, Calif., an upscale retirement community, the bidders start to dream of scoring big. Darrell lands a locker filled with furniture, and Jarrod gambles on a safe. Have they bought treasure--or trash?

It can be exciting to contemplate a move from your existing home to someplace more suitable for your retirement years. Whether you are hoping to downsize now that the kids are gone or find a perfect location once you are no longer dependent on proximity to your job, the decision to uproot your life for a fresh start should not be taken lightly.

My wife and I have been searching for our ideal retirement home for the past four years. We have researched and investigated the possibilities and weighed them against our ever-expanding checklist. We often found ourselves discouraged and disheartened with the reality of a very limited set of costly options that would require sacrificing just too much. But our perseverance has paid off, and we think we have found the ideal home for our retirement relocation. Here is a summary of the most important considerations on our wish list that we were fortunate to finally find in one property:

Not too far off the beaten path. We wanted a home away from the busy life we had been living in the Bay Area, free of excess traffic and congestion. But we still wanted to be close enough to go out to a nice dinner or see a play should the urge strike us. Our new place is ten miles from a major freeway, allowing us access to civilization when we need it. San Francisco International Airport is a 90-minute drive, so our travel plans can be fulfilled relatively painlessly. Best of all, we were lucky enough to find a home that is less than one mile from a quaint village. We plan to walk to town to enjoy the local restaurants, savor coffee from our favorite spot and sip the wines for which the local mountains are renowned.

Room for visitors (but not too much). We have two guest bedrooms and plan to throw in a foldout couch or two in case we are overrun during the holiday season. There is a nice big area for a table that can easily be stretched to seat 10 to 12 family members or friends. And with one deck getting full sun while the other is shaded by old oaks, everyone should be able to find a place to their liking.

Support network for seniors. Although there is a spread of ages in our new neighborhood with a mix of retired folks along with young families, it was important that the area be "senior friendly." We researched the local public transportation and found a wonderful service dedicated to older residents. It runs frequently from readily accessible bus stops to the local downtown and other points of interest. Possible activities in the area for seniors range from volunteering to creative arts to various clubs and societies just waiting for those with free time to join in. A major hospital is about 15 miles away with closer emergency care facilities scattered across the valley.

Affordable now and later. Since it is hard to predict what the future may hold when it comes to finances, we hoped to have the right setup to rent out a room. Our new place includes a good-sized bedroom with a full bath at the far end of the house with a private door for access. We plan to add a microwave and small refrigerator to make it relatively self-sustaining for short-term visitors. Since we are near Monterey, popular events like Laguna Seca and the Monterey Jazz Festival draw regular attendees who will need a place to stay. We can make the room available as frequently as we want, and the additional income will always be welcome. And it is nice to have some younger people to talk with and bring a little excitement to our retired life.

Neighbors nearby, but not too near. We decided we preferred to be in the near vicinity of our neighbors to socialize, interact and keep an eye on each other. Our new neighborhood has good-sized lots, so we are not looking in each other's windows. Yet, walking down the street, we pass numerous homes and the friendly folks who reside therein.

Good climate. My wife loves the warm sun, and I am finding that I also prefer a more temperate climate as I get older. Since we are 15 miles from the ocean, we are well beyond the fog belt. We are slightly elevated above the valley floor, so our home is four to six degrees warmer on a typical day. To satisfy my love of the beach, I can take a short drive to find myself perched on cliffs overlooking some of the most beautiful waves and beaches in the world. And if it happens to be cold and foggy, I just turn around and head back to the sun.

The search for a new retirement home has been a tedious process, but we finally found what we were looking for. Now it's time to pack up and get ready to live our next chapter.

Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be". Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.

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