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How to find the perfect retirement spot

  • Older Americans looking for the right retirement destination should consider location, livability and affordability.
  • Don't underestimate proximity to family, health-care services and the weather.

For older Americans, downsizing is often the logical next step, but when to move, where to go and how to pull it off are often considerable hurdles.

Despite Hurricane Irma, which has caused some future retirees to rethink Florida, the Sunshine State remains one of the most desired destinations because of its overall low cost of living, extensive availability of recreational activities, including golf and beaches, as well as no personal income tax.

In fact, Florida consistently ranks among the best places to retire — even though it's been steadily losing ground to states like Georgia, Arizona and the Carolinas in recent years.

A separate report by the Milken Institute found that warm weather and the ability to play golf may not mean so much to older Americans anymore as they approach retirement age.

As health care, community engagement and even employment opportunities become increasingly important, other top spots including Madison, Wisconsin, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, have emerged, according to the Milken Institute's most recent "Best Cities for Successful Aging."

For those weighing a major move, Amanda McCollum, a certified financial planner and founder of the site mylifekeepers.org, suggests picking a place relatively close to family or friends that is low maintenance, with a reputable hospital nearby and fits within the budget.

"Work with your financial advisor to determine what retirement lifestyle and location you can afford," she said. That should also factor in the cost of selling one home before you buy another, which goes hand in hand with the arduous task of sorting and selling the bulk of its contents.

For seniors considering a retirement community, test it out first, McCollum said.

"Take the time to visit these communities and talk to current residents to learn about the culture of that community as they do vary," she said.

And don't underestimate the weather. "If you are not accustomed to extreme cold or hot temperatures you may not want to choose a retirement destination with extreme weather conditions," she said — particularly in the aftermath of the most recent hurricane season.

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