Home Sweet Home: Where will you live in retirement?

3 minute read

The Covid 19 pandemic caused innumerable changes in our lives, but one thing did NOT change – 77 percent of adults 50 and older still want to remain in their homes for the long term — a number that has been consistent for decades. “It’s really important that we understand what people’s housing preferences are, what they want, what they need and how well their options are meeting their needs,” says Rodney Harrell, vice president of family, home and community at AARP. “It’s foundational to our work to improve housing options and communities.” (AARP Community Preferences Survey 2021).

What does your retirement lifestyle look like when you picture it?

Are you part of a livable community? Do you plan on traveling and just need a home-base? Would building an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) be right for you or a caregiver? Is home sharing an option (picture the Golden Girls or even a younger person)? Answering these types of questions can get you closer to knowing what type of housing will be right for you. Where you live also matters when it comes to livability, proximity to family, and access to resources like healthcare and social activities. To help people see how different areas compare across the U.S., AARP’s Public Policy Institute created the Livability Index that measures 61 community characteristics across seven categories: housing, neighborhood, transportation, environment, health, engagement, opportunity.

WATCH Your Money Map: Home sweet home: where will you live in retirement?

Rodney Harrell, Vice President for Family, Home and Community at AARP, joined Jean Chatzky on Your Money Map to discuss where you will live in retirement on September 7, 2022.

How you want to live in retirement is just as important as where you want to live

The U.S. Census estimates that only 10 percent of homes are “aging ready,” so if aging in place in is in your future, make sure you have enough saved to make the necessary safety upgrades to things like smart technology, home entrances, bathrooms, and kitchens (U.S. Census Bureau Old Housing, New Needs 2021). And remember, your expenses and income needs can also change depending on how and where you live. Knowing your sources of income and what you need to cover your needs and wants is a critical part of planning. Annuities—one of only three sources of protected income—can be an important part of your retirement security solution to help you stay independent, have increased choices, live the lifestyle you want, and spend your final years knowing you’ll have income you can always count on regardless of the markets. There are free tools and resources available on the ALI website to help you get started in planning what’s next.


Five tips to help you figure out how and where to live:

  • Think comprehensively vs focusing on one piece of the puzzle. The house you love may be great, but if you’re far from where you want and need to be, isolation can become a problem. Check out AARP’s Livability Index to see how your community scores.
  • Embrace impermanence. As the saying goes – the only constant is change. Have a mindset that keeps you open to new people (even you!) and new ideas. Being flexible mentally, as well as physically, can help you improve the chances you’ll have better outcomes.
  • Build adjustments not only for your living environment but also your retirement planning. Your retirement journey and income needs can change. The more you prepare for this likelihood, the better off you’ll be when unexpected expenses occur.
  • Understand local zoning laws. Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) like in-law suites are gaining in popularity, but only nine states and D.C. have passed ADU laws so far. It pays to know what the laws are in your community if you decide to pursue this option.
  • Be tax aware. Moving to a state with no income or estate tax may only be part of the story. A financial planning professional and a tax professional are a great way to help you look at all of aspects of your decision to understand your real cost of living.

Background on Guest
Dr. Rodney Harrell is Vice President, Family, Home and Community with AARP. He is the lead on housing issues and directs AARP Public Policy Institute’s team of issue experts on Long-Term Services and Supports, Family Caregiving and Livable Communities. The team provides thought leadership through research, policy analysis, and innovative solutions to ensure people have access to options that enhance livability across the lifespan. He is also a speaker, researcher, and blogger on livable community’s issues and leads AARP’s Future of Housing efforts.

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