When Don and Dot Thomas were in their late 50s, they took a class on preparing for retirement. They lived in Elm Grove, Wis., at the time, and decided that they were going to move south after Don retired from his job as a manager for Miller Brewing.
"We knew we didn't want to stay in Wisconsin because the winters are too severe," says Dot, 80. So for three years, they took vacations to Florida, the Carolinas, Arizona and Arkansas to look at retirement communities.
They settled on Hot Springs Village, Ark., because they could have a house on a lake and access to excellent golf courses while living in driving distance from several of their adult children. They have lived there 21 years and are happy with their decision. "We really enjoy it," says Don, 80. "We like sitting at our picture window and looking out on the lake."
When Ron Grossman decided to retire at age 68 from his career as an attorney in Utica, N.Y., he and his wife, Doris, also thoroughly researched the best place to relocate. They decided on Sarasota, Fla., because they would have access to excellent golf courses, beaches and a range of cultural opportunities — theater, symphonies, opera, ballet and jazz, he says.
The city also had many fine restaurants with a wide variety of ethnic food. "Sarasota seemed to have it all," he says. "I have to say I have enjoyed retirement."
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to finding the right retirement location, experts say.
Every year, 700,000 Americans move to new towns to retire, says Annette Fuller, editor of Where to Retire magazine and WhereToRetire.com. "Nationally, two dozen states and hundreds of towns seek to attract retirees as a source of economic development."