Dear Saavy Senior: My wife and I will be retiring in a year or two and are interested in moving to a smaller house in a better climate but could use some help. What resources can you recommend for locating and researching good places to retire in the U.S.? - Looking to Relocate
Dear Looking: If you're interested in relocating when you retire, like millions of other baby boomers, free Web-based resources can help you find and research a new location that meet your wants, needs and budget. Here are several to help you get started.
First, if you aren't sure where you want to retire, a good place to begin is by taking a retirement test at sites such as Sperling's Best Places (bestplaces.net/fybp) or Find Your Spot (findyourspot.com). These ask dozens of questions on your preferences, such as climate, recreation and community size, and suggest destinations that best match your answers.
Media sources and websites including U.S. News and World Report, Kiplinger's, Forbes, Money magazine, Reuters, Bankrate.com, TopRetirements.com, the Milken Institute and AARP publish top retirement location lists. To find them, go to any search engine and type in "best places to retire" along with the name of the media source.
Consider getting a subscription to "Where to Retire" magazine (wheretoretire.com, 713-974-6903), which is designed to help you find ideal retirement settings. A yearly subscription runs $18 for six issues.
Once you find a few areas that interest you, your next step is research them. Here are some important areas you need to investigate.
Cost of living: Can you afford to live comfortably in the location you want to retire to? BestPlaces.net and Numbeo.com offer tools to compare the cost of living from your current location to where you would like to move. They compare housing costs, food, utilities, transportation and more.
Taxes: Some states are more tax friendly to retirees than others. If you're planning to move to another state, Kiplinger's has a tax guide for retirees at Kiplinger.com/links/retireetaxmap that lets you find and compare taxes state-by-state. It covers income taxes, sales tax, taxes on retirement income, Social Security benefits taxes, property taxes, and inheritance and estate taxes.
Crime rate: To evaluate how safe a community is, NeighborhoodScout.com is a top tool that provides property and violent crime rates and crimes per square mile.
Healthcare: Does the area you want to relocate to have easy access to good healthcare? To locate and research hospitals in an area, use HospitalCompare.hhs.gov and QualityCheck .org. To search for new doctors that accept your insurance, contact your plan, or, if you're 65 or older use Medicare.gov/
physiciancompare. It's also important to know that healthcare costs can vary by region, so you should contact your insurer to check out possible cost variables.
Transportation: If you plan to travel much or expect frequent visits from your family, convenient access to an airport or train station is an advantage. Investigate alternative transportation options, because many retirees give up driving in their 80s. To do this, contact Rides in Sight (ridesinsight.org, 855-607-4337), a free transportation referral service, and your Area Aging Agency, available from the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116.
To learn more about specific communities in the U.S., AARP's new livability index (livabilityindex.aarp.org), Epodunk.com and GangsAway.com are three resources, as well as the city's chamber of commerce office. To locate it, go to any search engine and type in the name of the city and state followed by "chamber of commerce."
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of "The Savvy Senior" book.