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Retirement savings

April 23, 2013

Top six mistakes when moving in retirement

Retiring to live on a tropical island or ski mountain may seem appealing, but be sure to test the waters before you make your move.

When Dave Robb, 57, sold his half of his business in favour of an early retirement, he and his wife had some important decisions to make. At the top of their list was pursuing their passion for skiing, so they decided to leave their home in Dundas, Ont. and set off for Vernon, B.C.

But much as the Robbs love their life in Vernon, they are now planning to move back to Ontario to be closer to their family. As they have  learned, deciding to relocate is about much more than just picking a nice place to live in retirement. There are a variety of factors you need to consider.

If you’re looking for a great place to retire, be careful to avoid the following six common mistakes:

1. Jumping in too quickly

Budgeting for an extended vacation in the area you think you’d like to live is a good way to avoid making a big decision too quickly. That way you can take the time to really get to know the community you’re planning to join.

“Get involved with things that allow you to meet people and make friends,” says Robb, who spent the first few years of his retirement bouncing back and forth between B.C. and Ontario before moving to Vernon full-time. “Take the time to explore and try different areas — move around.”

2. Assuming you’ll never get sick

Ensure you have access to the health and wellness services you need — you may be healthy now, but it is important to plan for the future.

“Access to good medical care as you age is very important,” says Robb, adding that his wife works in the hospital system and has seen many people who’ve had to travel far distances for the treatment of serious illnesses. “You also need to ask yourself if you move far away from family members and have serious health problems, who will be there to help you?”

Take the time to research the availability of doctors, hospitals and other wellness services you’ve grown accustomed to in your current home base.

3. Neglecting to consider the climate

In Robb’s case, he wasn’t trying to get away from winter. In fact, he and his wife wanted to move to a place with great winter ski conditions. But often those thinking of moving to a new area fail to consider what it would be like to live in a different climate.

Understanding the typical weather patterns of your new home is very important, both for your health and your peace of mind. For example, do you tend to get a bit depressed without your daily dose of natural sunlight, yet are opting to move to a region known for its rain? Are you moving somewhere to get away from the winter, but aren’t sure how much you’ll love the constant heat?

4. Ignoring cost-of-living expenses

The Sun Life Canadian Unretirement Index shows that 71% of Canadians who have written a financial plan are confident they will have enough money to enjoy the lifestyle they want in retirement. Creating a plan, and making sure you budget carefully for all your needs, is one of the most important considerations when planning to relocate.

Making sure you have a good grasp of basic cost-of-living expenses, property taxes and how much you’ll need to spend to visit your family will help ensure a smooth transition to your retirement destination.

If you don’t already have a retirement income plan, consider consulting with a financial advisor to help you get started.

5. Forgetting to check work opportunities

The Sun Life Canadian Unretirement Index also found that 39% of Canadians want to be working at age 66, while 62% believe they will have to be working at this time.

Robb, who found a job as a ski instructor in Vernon, is not alone in choosing to work part-time after retirement: 13% report they’ll be working at age 66 to stay mentally active and 12% say the reason is they enjoy their job or career. Interestingly, 27% believe they’ll be working at age 66 to earn enough money to pay basic living expenses.

6. Overlooking family considerations

When thinking about relocating in retirement, it’s critical that you have an honest discussion with your spouse. “It is very important that your partner is in line with what you’re doing,” says Robb. “These decisions can be a test of your marriage.”

What Robb and his wife realized over the years, was that while they loved their lifestyle in Vernon, they weren’t happy living so far away from their two daughters.

“If I could move both my girls here we’d be as happy as can be,” says Robb. “But odds are they’re going to get married and have children back in Ontario and my wife and I don’t want to be long-distance grandparents. Our kids also don’t want to have us living so far away.”

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