6 roads to relocating in retirement

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The Best—and Worst—Places to Retire

When many of us dream of retirement, we envision living in a picturesque cottage down by the sea, enjoying pristine beaches and tropical breezes. Or maybe we see ourselves with a golf course outside our back door and green fairways leading down to a clubhouse where we'll join our friends for evening cocktails. But most of us cannot afford to live near the water or in a golf community, and many of us don't really want to.

People spend half their lives trying to imagine their retirement lifestyle, and it often involves moving from their so-called boring suburban development to a more charming town, or to another state or even another country. But the reality is often quite different and a lot less exotic, but not necessarily less satisfying or less fulfilling. Consider these six issues when mapping out your future retirement destination:

1. The majority of retirees stay in their homes until they are no longer able to do so.
Only about 2 percent of the 36 million Americans who move in a year – or fewer than 1 million people – say they're relocating because of retirement, according to Census Bureau data. People age 65 and older were more likely to relocate for health reasons than other age groups.

2. Retirees who move are happier than those who stay in their own homes.
According to a 2009 study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, homeowners who move "experience improvements in psychological well-being." Even for households with a negative shock, such as sickness or financial difficulties, the experience of moving had benefits. The movers experienced either more positive or less negative emotions than the non-movers.

3. More people are moving to age-restricted communities focused on senior living.
The number of new single-family houses built in age-restricted communities jumped from 15,000 in 2013 to 21,000 in 2014, according to Department of Commerce data. About half of these new homes in age-restricted developments were constructed in the south. One survey from Better Homes and Gardens says more than a quarter of baby boomers, or 27 percent, would consider moving into a traditional retirement community.

4. Many developers have been updating and improving senior living communities to cater specifically to baby boomers.
People moving into senior communities are not usually looking for a bigger house. They want a nicer house in a more convenient location. New developments tend to offer more contemporary design features, modern appliances and access to technology. Furthermore, many facilities offer community activities such as adult education classes as well as health and fitness opportunities.

5. Baby boomers want to stay close to home.
Even among those who relocate after retirement, most stay in the same state and even the same county. Most retirees who move have a desire for a new type of housing, such as a place that is more affordable or has more amenities, or to be closer to family, the Census Bureau found. People age 65 and older are the least likely to move for job-related reasons.

6. There are plenty of resources for people who want to move.
Various websites, publications and organizations offer suggestions about the best places to retire for all different kinds of people. You might want to take a look at the 10 best places to retire on Social Security alone, the best places for those who can afford it or even historic places to retire. Most of these recommendations consider such factors as crime rates, climate, cost of living, taxes, access to medical facilities and opportunities for an active lifestyle.

Or you can just ask a friend. All the experts agree that the best place to retire is the place where you're going to fit in with a friendly, like-minded social group and where you'll feel comfortable in your own skin.

Tom Sightings blogs at Sightings at 60.

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

See the best states for retirement:
11 PHOTOS
Best states to move for retirement
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6 roads to relocating in retirement

Wyoming

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South Dakota 

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Virginia 

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Nebraska

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Idaho

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Utah 

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Colorado 

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Montana

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Arizona

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Iowa 

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